‘Eavesdropping is a deplorable habit, but I have developed worse ones since.’ Patrick Rothfuss.

17 Feb

Evquiet-coffeeery once in a while I like to take myself off to a local coffee shop and find a nice quiet corner, order a pot of tea, and sit and read a magazine . . . or the local paper . . .  or possibly even just gaze into space and think (deeply, of course) about life, the universe . . . and whatever I need to pick up from the supermarket on the way home . . .

Lately, however, I have been finding it harder and harder to find that ‘quiet little corner’ . . .

women-talkingIt’s not because the cafes are any busier than they used to be.  People have always gone to coffee shops to socialise, to catch up with friends and family and to chat, and my ‘quiet little corner’ has often only been that in my head. My work desk is located in the reception area of a community college and if I had not developed the ability to ignore much of the movement and noise that rages around me on a daily basis, I would never get any work done, so ‘tuning out’ the chatter in a coffee shop has never been an issue.  Well, at least it never used to be a issue . . .

man talking loud on cell phone clipartRecently, however, I have become more aware that, while still relatively easy to ‘unhear’ a room full of chattering people, I seem totally incapable of blocking out anyone talking on their mobile phone. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I just can’t do it. The more I desperately try not to listen—the more I seem to hear.  I know I am probably more intolerant than most (Luddite?  Moi?) but surely I can’t be the only one sitting in a public place feeling like that person over there talking (so loudly) into their phone is really really annoying . . .

(Are these people even aware, do you think, that they are not only talking to the person on the other end of their call, but to everyone else within earshot as well?  Because sometimes I really wonder.  I have certainly (and unwillingly) overheard more than a few things in the past that I definitely feel I could have gone happily to my grave not knowing.  The location of a certain young man’s latest piercing immediately springs to mind . . .  )   

So what’s the deal?  Why do people talking on their phones distract me so much?

brain-maze-350x336It seems that there is a perfectly reasonable (and scientific) answer.  Apparently, the speech processing part of the human brain is wired in such a way that it needs to make sense of all the ‘patterns’ it is seeing and hearing around us.  Normal two-sided conversations have rhythms and patterns that our brains understand and we can therefore tune them in and out as we need them.

brainHowever, with a phone call, we only hear half a conversation, and our brains (clever little things that they are) realise something is missing and immediately start trying to complete the patterns to fill in the other side of the conversation. This causes us to be distracted from whatever else we are doing (no wonder I never get to finish my magazines) and, before you know it, there you are . . .  eavesdropping . . . whether you want to or not.

Well, that’s all fine, well and good, and it’s nice to know that I am not just a closet nosey-parker but knowing why I eavesdrop doesn’t resolve the issue.  How do I make it stop?  Perhaps there is some sort of meditative technique I can master that will help me to tune out these distracting and annoying half-conversations . . .  or perhaps I should start wearing ear plugs (I might start a new fashion trend . . . )  . . . or, even better  . . . perhaps I’ll start getting take-away coffees instead and go and find a nice (mobile free) tree to sit under . . .

eavesdrop1Anyway . . . until I get my eavesdropping habit under control I am issuing fair warning!

If you are out and about  in public and you are using your mobile phone, take care in your ‘private’ conversations, because, in the words of that eminent psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane, “whether you’re happy, or sad, or mad, or bad . . . . I’m listening . . . “


Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

9 responses to “‘Eavesdropping is a deplorable habit, but I have developed worse ones since.’ Patrick Rothfuss.

  1. Vee

    February 24, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    I have to agree with you Sal and all your comments you have received. Vee

    Liked by 1 person


    February 21, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Hi,I log on to your new stuff like every week.Your writing style is witty, keep it up!


    • sallyinthehaven

      February 22, 2017 at 7:27 am

      Thank you. 🙂


  3. Judy

    February 17, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I know exactly what you mean about the need to ‘fill the void’ Sal. I know you said this is a G rated blog but I do need to mention the words public toilet which I’m hoping is ok. While using said facility and trying to mind my own business(!!) somebody in the next cubicle seemed to be trying to get my attention and kept say ‘Hello’ ‘Hello’…thinking they perhaps didn’t have any loo paper in their cubicle I eventually responded with a very wary ‘Hello’?! This is when they proceeded to continue their mobile phone conversation!! 😨😫 Who does that?!!


    • sallyinthehaven

      February 18, 2017 at 7:56 am

      Eeerk! People can be so gross . . .


  4. stevetalbot51

    February 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Agreed – one of THE most annoying things ever!!
    So bad on public transport in Sydney that they have to set up “quiet carriages” on most trains so people don’t go completely bananas before they get to work.


    • sallyinthehaven

      February 18, 2017 at 7:57 am

      I did not know that. ‘Quiet carriages’. They would be the ones I was heading for for sure . . .


  5. Pam Talbot

    February 17, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I’m with you on this Sal! I deplore people who make & receive phone calls in a public place, who don’t remove themselves to a less public place. Or at the very least, speak quietly. I have a theory that these people want everyone to hear their conversation. Something to do with ego or self esteem perhaps. And now I’m curious…….where was the piercing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • sallyinthehaven

      February 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

      This is a ‘G’ rated blog! (I’ll tell you tonight over drinkies . . . ) 😉

      Liked by 1 person


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