Friday, May 20, 2011

Loud Talkers

One of the most insidious forms of anti-social behaviour is talking loudly in public. It's inconsiderate, because it inflicts your conversation on everyone around you, even though almost certainly don't want to hear it. The problem is compounded by the fact that the people oblivious to this social courtesy are also more likely to be engaging in banal, obtuse conversation at loud volume, rather than say discussing the merits of Wittgenstein vs. Nietzsche, or the latest offering from the Lyric Opera.

In this regard, people seem to generally fall into one of two categories:

a) People that instinctively moderate the volume of their voice so as not to be easily audible to others nearby who aren't part of the conversation.

b) People that just talk at a loud fixed volume, regardless of the the level of background noise, how many other people are around, and how many people are likely to hear them.

This behaviour is inconsiderate in the true sense of the word - failing to consider whether your actions will impact other people. It's a class of antisocial behavior that's different from, say, farting loudly or urinating on the sidewalk. In those cases, the people who do it broadly know that it won't be appreciated, but just don't care. The loud talker is, as often as not, completely oblivious to how many people they're pissing off.

Loud talking persists because most people are unlikely to actually request the person keep their voice down. To do so is to provide a public good - you personally look like a dick as well when you complain, and the beneficiaries are those who get quiet but don't have to hassle the person. This doesn't happen much, because the people who prefer quiet are less likely to be brash enough to request others to shut up.

Every now and again, though, the quiet folk will get tipped over the edge, and ask the person to keep their voice down.What happens next determines whether the person is an oblivious loud-talker, or an obnoxious loud talker.

The oblivious loud talker will probably say, 'Uh, sure' or something like that. They'll think the complainer is weird, but probably just go along.

The obnoxious loud talker will react like Lakeysha Beard:
"Lakeysha Beard of Tigard was charged with disorderly conduct after police said she got into a “verbal altercation” with train passengers on Sunday. Passengers complained she refused to put down her cell phone and conductors had to stop the train in Salem, where police got involved."
Okay, so maybe the people complaining were way out of line.
"Salem police reported she had been on the phone non-stop since the train pulled out of Oakland, Calif. 16 hours earlier....
Holy hell! 16 straight hours of drivel! And it gets better:
"Amtrak does have a policy that riders can’t use cell phones in designated “quiet cars,” like the one in which Beard was riding."
Good God, this horrendous boorish woman sat down in a designated quiet car, talked on her mobile phone for 16 hours straight, and then got in a "verbal altercation" with passengers who asked her to stop, which was bad enough to result in the police being called.

And was she chastened by the experience? Has she seen the error of her ways?
"[She] said she felt “disrespected” by the entire incident."
Lakeysha Beard of Tigard, you are a repulsive, obnoxious human being.

Every now and again, I reflect on my policy of never, ever riding public transport unless absolutely necessary. Stories like this remind me of the wisdom of this rule.

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