Note: I wrote this earlier and forgot to post…
This morning I was in my favorite café writing the previous post about Harry Reid and rationing healthcare. When I sat at my table I noticed a college-aged girl sitting at a table by herself not too far away from me. About an hour later she was joined by a friend. They talked and laughed, kind of loudly. Maybe 30 minutes later a 3rd friend joined them and their collective loudness increased. It wasn’t just their talking, which was quite louder than it needed to be for all of them to hear, but every few minutes they would erupt into raucous laughing cackles.
Their loud talking was distracting, but I was fairly successful in tuning it out. The cackles were another thing entirely, completely interrupting my train of thought with each outburst.
After some time I finally leaned over and asked if they could “use their inside voices”.
They weren’t amused. One of them was quite offended. But they did quiet down. And I quit bugging them. (that last sentence added just so I could use quite, quiet, and quit in one paragraph ). Two guys sitting on the other side of their table from me mouthed their thanks for my saying something.
About 15 minutes later they announced, somewhat loudly, “Let’s get out of here.”. And off they went. Of course, unlike most patrons of this wonderful café, they didn’t bother to remove their dirty cups so the table would be clean for the next person.
As I was getting ready to leave a woman walked over and thanked me for saying something. I appreciated that.
Where do we draw the line? What behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not. At what point is it proper to correct someone else’s behavior?
If I’m in a drinking pub in Scotland I’d never say anything to someone about being too loud or obnoxious. It’s acceptable and rather expected. There are nuances though. For one, a pub is not a pub is not a pub. Loud and obnoxious isn’t as acceptable in a pub that sells as much food as drink. Loud and obnoxious is more acceptable later than earlier.
In cafés around Europe loud and obnoxious behavior is quite unacceptable and it’s not unusual for staff or others to say something to loud folk (who are often American). Same goes for trains and other public places. In many European countries there’s a pretty strong belief that you should do what you can to avoid interfering with or irritating others. They talk just loud enough for their friends to hear.
In the U.S.?