Loud and Near
I walked into the dentist's office, and the lobby was packed. No. Packed.
I wasn't surprised. My dentist has two modes: deliberate and not-that-hurried.
It doesn't matter if there's one person waiting or twenty -- he is going
cover current events and flossing procedure before you step out of that
I sat down with my book, The Energy of Money, and had not finished
a paragraph when a woman entered. Her two boys piled in behind her,
excited to be out of school even if it was to see the dentist. The
mother noticed the crowd and groaned as if it were our fault. She scribbled
her name on the clipboard, wrenching her neck to see the dentist. He
was expounding his views on Tibet in the next room.
Taking a seat, the woman patted the chair beside her for the boys
to sit down. Being nomads, they ignored her and cased out the joint
instead. One took to a stack of magazines while the other became engrossed
with plant dirt. The mom chewed her gum busily and fidgeted with her
pants. She was desperate. These are the kinds of delays that cause
people to question the meaning of their existence, and that only leads
to one thing: counseling. She was one of those full-time moms who takes
perverted pleasure in being overworked. Her biggest worry in life is
that she will run out of worries. So it goes.
I had just returned to my book when the lady pulled out her cell phone.
I assumed she was checking messages. Then I heard that voice...
"Hi, it's me, you wouldn't believe what I've been through, I've
got the boys here, we've been going all day..."
Her voice was hacksaw on petrified wood -- not quite Joan Rivers,
but definitely "please-slap-me." And it was loud.
"Are you gonna be there later, call me when you do, I need to
get out, these kids are driving me nuts..."
The woman maintained her merciless tone until I had to put down my
book. I was less concerned with the energy of money than with my career
as a moronologist. I looked around the room; to my surprise, no one
seemed troubled at all. Were they all just being insanely polite?
Rod Serling's voice came over the intercom, "Meet Jason Love,
a would-be pacifist trapped in tight quarters with an obnoxious woman
and ten other people who don't mind obnoxious women..."
Now, I don't know where the small fork goes at dinner and sometimes
miss the toilet when I pee, but I do have manners enough to realize
that if I am talking on the phone in a small, quiet room, then everyone
will have to listen to me! This woman had no sense of Other. She was
the teen next door who doesn't realize that the entire city can hear
his rap music. And she just kept going, the Energizer Tongue.
Still, no one met my eye. That was all I could take. This lady was
definitely out of her calling area, and someone had to do something
about it. My grandpa used to say that two wrongs don't make a right,
but three rights make a left. It made sense.
I said to the man across from me, "When did the doctor move his
office into a phone booth?"
The man smiled nervously and glanced at the lady. She didn't notice
over her prattle. The others peeked at me now and again, curious if
I would go on. I did. I took the seat beside the woman and listened
unabashedly to her conversation. I bobbed my head in agreement and
occasionally made faces about what she was saying (if you can't beat
'em, mock 'em).
The woman finally realized. She cupped the receiver and said, "Can
I help you?"
I shook my head no.
She squinted her eyes, realizing that she had a wise-ass on her hands.
Actually, right now I'm just a smart-aleck, but someday I hope to be
She said, "And you are..."
"Sitting three feet away from you and unable to hear anything
but your voice."
The lady told her friend on the other line that she had to go. She
seemed a little... peeved? She put away the phone that started the
mess and grabbed her children by the arms as if they had done something
wrong. The one eating dirt from the planter assumed it was him. She
hurried out the door with a scowl over her shoulder (at me, in case
you were wondering).
The door slammed shut, ringing the cowbell overhead, and that was
that. The others didn't look at me. They didn't want to be guilty by
association. And believe it or not, I started to feel bad. Maybe there
was a better way to convey my message. Sure, that woman was disrespectful,
but I'm not the Deputy of Manners. She had feelings, too, I suppose;
maybe she didn't even realize that she had been so disruptive...
On the other hand, it was quiet again, so I forgot about the whole
thing and returned to my book.