Just a little grumble

A short story:

You know when you are sitting quite innocently in a café, minding your own business and trying not to do anything that might inconvenience anyone else? Well, that’s me right now. Except I won’t say which café I’m in, if you don’t mind, despite it not carrying the name of one of those chains marked down by the mob for special attention. It’s not important.

It’s at times like this, however, while observing the sort of humanity that passes through such places, that you realise there are certain types that really get you in the craw. In fact, such is their power of annoyance that they ratchet your stress level up to that of a bomb-disposal expert just as he’s getting to the tricky bit of choosing which wire to cut. You might say I’m asking for it, sitting as I am in a café that isn’t owned and run by a community-based social enterprise. But you find annoying people everywhere, even in community-based social enterprises. No, honestly, you do!

Anyway, I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a grinch, on account of my grumbling, so I’ll get on and explain why these particular people are so annoying before I lose my nerve. The first person is one you will recognise: the foghorn. Some voices carry, I understand that. Their owners enunciate their syllables and twang their vocal cords just a smidgen more vigorously than the average contralto. This we can take. But, and this advice is free now, if you are such a person then please remember that your voice already carries across a room and you don’t need to let rip. In fact, quite the opposite: It would be nice if you could speak softly when the only person that needs to hear what you are saying is sitting not more than two feet away from your galloping gob.

Which brings me to the second culprit. A man. In a blue shirt with sleeves cut off at the elbows. He also has a voice that carries. Not because his vocal cords are perfectly formed and he speaks with thespian range, but because his nasal cavity extends into his mouth – and well into his stomach by the sound of it. My guess is that he is some sort of transport manager or stock controller who has divined a use for such a voice in his work. BUT NOT IN PUBLIC!

I apologise for the gratuitous use of capitals there, but I was left with no choice. The point is a simple one. Public places are places where a certain amount of background noise is expected. More than that, it’s part of the experience, like when you take a stroll in the country and you hear water tumbling over rocks in a stream or birds trilling among the branches of a favourite, communal tree. But the point of public places is that they are public. They are shared. They are not just for you, which implies the need for a certain amount of consideration in personal conduct. For instance, you might have a thing for shouting your head off in public places, but you should know that some people find that sort of thing irritating. You never know, other people might like to hurl bricks randomly about the place, but you might not be too happy if one were to land on your head. It’s a matter of time and place, isn’t it?

Now I really do feel like a grinch, so I’ll stop. But they’re still at it, foghorning their tedious conversation to anyone in megaphone distance. But I don’t mind so much now, despite their mouths still working up and down and side to side like smug, masticating cows, for I’ve stuck my earphones in my shells and am playing my favourite tunes at full volume. It is drowning out their dirge quite excellently. Though people are beginning to stare. This is another thing I find annoying – people staring at me. Oh well, never mind!

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