Keep it down

I’m not a fan of crowds; not a fan of large gatherings of any kind.
The noisy chatter is like litter on a windy day, blowing up in my face and making me wince. What happened to sitting quietly and waiting, for whatever we are waiting for, to begin?
I recently was at a book launch for a local author whom I didn’t know, but her book sounds rather fun (Wanda Campbell–Hat Girl–check it out).
I arrived early because I am a person of the habitually arriving early variety; arriving on time is considered late by my standards. I was the second person to arrive in the auditorium (so there are at least two of us of such distinction on the planet).
I chose my seat wisely: not too close, not too far back, and on the left side. I only can imagine how eccentric I am going to be by the time I reach 80, should I reach 80.
I had my notebook with me and began writing some thoughts, compiling some lists, using my waiting time wisely. In wandered a few others, taking their preferred seats; some on the left and some on the right, all behind me.
The author and the individual introducing the author came in. Then the noisy stragglers arrived: one talking on her cellphone, loudly, about the next day’s plans, about the groceries she needed for tomorrow’s meal, sharing information of a personal nature at full volume.
The groups milled around, debating where they might sit, making noises that sounded very poultry-like. The noise just kept increasing in volume and I began to grumble internally.
At 7 p.m. sharp, the head of the English Department for Acadia University stood at the podium waiting to make her introduction of Ms. Campbell and though she was front and centre, the din continued. She raised her hand, cleared her throat, but the din continued.
I was outraged—just barely able to stay in my seat and not jump up and shout about manners and respect.
That merely would have added to the racket.
These noisy chickens eventually quieted and let the woman at the front begin her presentation of the details of Wanda Campbell’s career. But just as Wanda took her place, and thanked us all for giving up our personal time to come to this event, in straggled seven or eight late-comers.
All I could think was: good grief.
I’m wondering why this bothers me so. I’m wondering why our manners and good behaviour don’t seem to come front and centre quite often enough. I think of my children, who always seem to display thoughtful behaviour; not interrupting, listening to others, and being respectfully quiet.
Is this a lost art? Is it considered giving in to the “man” to show respect and to be quiet when another person is speaking.
It’s like those people at the movie theatre who feel compelled and perfectly within their rights to discuss the movie while the rest of us are trying to hear it.
Some of us will shush them; most of us just grumble to each other and fidget in our seats.
I’m always shocked by these people, those who feel justified in speaking aloud at the discomfort of others. Where did they learn this behaviour?
I’m thinking their parents and teachers didn’t box their ears enough when they spoke out of turn.
Or is this just a sign I’m getting older and my inventory of tolerance has been depleted. I suppose that could be the case.
And if so: darn it.
wendistewart@live.ca

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