March 23, 2014

in favor of mystery

One Saturday morning at the supermarket. Three in front of me, many behind me. Lady behind me, peachy pink cashmere sweater shrugged over the shoulders. Answers her cell - that emblem of pathological narcissism and augury of social dissolution*. 

“Oh, hello there..yes..I’m just standing in line at the cash register. Last minute shopping you know.” 

Thought bubble hovering over my head, "Oh good. Means, she’s going to cut the caller short. That’s nice."  

"I have a birthday party to go to later. As usual, I’m always late. I have to bake a cake. Although, maybe I’ll just stop by that bakery to get one. I’m not sure. Can you recommend a good bakery? What do you think?”

My thought bubble deflates. Drops to the ground like a shriveled raisin. Is further stomped upon as lady with gluten free groceries doesn’t pause to wait for an answer; her flow of chatter continues uninterrupted. 

“I’d also like a biography about my children saying how wonderful they are and what a fantastic mom I am.” 

Not only does she insist upon continuing the conversation as anguished organic veggies and lactose free yoghurt dutifully glide by, full of self-importance, lady in loafers is a personal space snatcher as well. My personal space. Personal space scratchers insist on invading other earthling’s personal space. Don’t stand so close to me. Even Sting knew that.

Chatter. Constant chatter. Unsolicited chatter. Unwanted chatter. Annoying. Standing in line at the airport. Standing in line at the coffee shop. Sitting on the bus. On the subway. In the restaurant. In the breakfast room. At hotel reception. Waiting at the doctors office. When it’s crowded. When it's confined space. 

Hearing people talk on the phone is one thing, being forced to listen sucks. When the first telephones were installed, they were in the living room or in the library or in the hallway depending on how large (Downton Abbey) or how small (closets) your home was. It was usually installed in a place where one had privacy i.e. there wasn’t a whole lot of foot traffic passing behind you or people standing around listening in. People knew "discreet". If anything, they hid around the corner if they wanted to eavesdrop. That's discreet. The operators could have listened in as well back when operators connected the calls or in the 60’s and 70’s when party lines were the bane of chatty teenagers. But in general, if you wanted, you had the feeling you could speak and nobody had to listen. Everybody wins. 

So please, I beg you: isn’t it enough that you can speak to whoever it is you have to talk to when you’re outside? When you’re finished with checking out? When you get off the bus? When you have shown your passport? When you’ve gotten your boarding pass? When you’re in the lounge or sitting down for a coffee? No call is that urgent. No call. Text more. It’s silent. 

Banning of cell phones isn't really the answer. Banning stuff just means people are too stupid and need restrictions. We are not stupid. Learn some manners. Retire to your hotel room. To any room. We don't need to know what kind of ice cream you like. 

Discretion. Mystery. Garboesque 'I vant to be alone' ness. More of that please. 

*thank you A.O. Scott, phrase taken from his review on “Canyons”
gif of Greta Garbo "Grand Hotel" courtesy of

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