Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Can't Hear You

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was sitting on a bench at a large, outdoor stage listening to a concert. The performers were singer-songwriters—the kind of music where you have to pay attention and listen to the words. They were good, and I was really enjoying the show.

And then two ladies ambled down the aisle to the bench in front of me, which looked to them like a comfortable place to continue their volcano of a conversation.

They took it in turns to erupt with a blast of volume, hot lava, and medical complaints, then bubble and steam until the next explosion of 1950s nostalgia and their grandchildren’s accomplishments.

One of the women was holding a banjo in a case. About twenty minutes into the concert/conversation, she opened the case to show off the instrument to her friend. By this point, it would not have surprised me if she had started to play the banjo right there in her seat.

As my outrage ticked up from “people like you are the reason I never parallel park” to “you ate my last piece of chocolate pie that I was saving for breakfast and YOU KNEW I WANTED THAT,” a beautiful thought struck me.

These ladies obviously did not realize that they were listening to live music, surrounded by live, perfect people like me who would never dream of talking during a show. They had forgotten the rules of civilization! Someone needed to remind them. Clearly, this social duty fell to me.

At this point I stopped paying any attention to the concert. My whole brain was focused on finding the perfect remark to silence these women—unfailingly polite, but conveying derision and inspiring shame.

Finally, my dagger of searing scorn and wit was ready. I leaned in to deliver the killing thrust. I opened my mouth, glowing with superiority, and all at once—the ladies stopped talking.

They turned to face the stage and sat quietly, listening to the performance. I waited. They had to start up again soon, and then I could pounce. But they stubbornly stayed silent, appreciating the music.

I was not appreciating anything. My perfectly-crafted punch line languished undelivered, and the offenders sat unscolded. I couldn’t even tell anyone how brilliant I was going to be. (“Hey, you know how those ladies were talking? Well, I was totally going to get them to stop. Before they did, I mean. Yeah, okay, I’ll shut up so you can hear the show.”)

So I wrote about it on my blog.