HOLDING COURT


“Excuse me, but this is a library.  Could you please be a little quieter?”  My wife asked two couples who were talking rather loudly in the ship’s library, where the rest of us were reading.  We were close and had looked over twice.  Another lady had looked over, too.  We were on a cruise to see the 2016 eclipse, lucky to go there, but our room number was a lot lower than theirs, I would bet money.  The first deck was for those who paid a lot less for the cruise.

Not only were they loud, the men were bragging.  They were talking about their season tickets to Ohio State football games, being on the Board of something or other, how they had taken “hundreds of cruises,” and all the places they had traveled.  They had seen stuff I never had or will, and I’ve been to fifty different countries. I had seen a few more total solar eclipses than they had, not that I was going comment.

I am not an OSU fan, something that isn’t rational, so hearing the specifics of a loud conversation about the Buckeyes added to the unpleasantness.

The quieter of the two couples were standing, the loudmouth, probably our age, was sitting, leaning back in a chair, as if he were holding court.  My wife and I decided to move, and I left first. I’m not confrontational.  The few times I have been have not turned out well, for I have a very nasty sarcastic streak, which makes me feel badly later, when I have a clearer mind.  If it is easier for me to disengage, I will.  As I left, I turned around to see my wife saying something to the foursome.  She then joined me. My wife isn’t afraid to call people out on boorish behavior and does it well.  Maybe as a woman, she has an advantage, maybe not.  I am afraid I probably will be slugged. Or shot.  This is America, after all, although we had all gone through a metal detector to come aboard ship.  I felt safe from that.

The comment from the guy holding court to her was, “What, did we wake you up?”

That was completely uncalled for.  It was not true; it was rude, boorish, and frankly shocking that a person called out on loud speech in a library, one who has taken so many cruises, obviously rich and powerful, for he was a member of so many boards, would say such a thing.  I’ve served on only two boards my whole life—the local and state medical society ones—and have never once been asked or considered to be put on the board of anything else.  Maybe it is because I’m not a high-powered loud opinionated person.  Or maybe because my knowledge, wisdom, ability to listen, and to stay quiet long enough to put things together at the end of a meeting is not welcome.  I’m an introvert and a slow processor; the loudmouth idea generators, who don’t have time to allow those of us who are system builders to make ideas reality, sit on the boards in the world I live in.  Maybe it is a reason why the world is such a mess.  I often wonder how much potential is lost; that is definitely one reason why the world is such a mess.

Boorishness is in these days.  Donald Trump brought it back and has been very successful with it, at least with a disturbingly large segment of the American electorate.  Worse, apparently it is stressing out teachers and children, too.  Some teachers are not discussing the upcoming election.  Others have abandoned neutrality for the first time.  Anti-bullying work in schools is being stressed to the limit—and failing.  “I want to kill Muslims,” was said by a fifth grader.  “You are going to be sent back to Mexico,” was said to another.  Currently, I’m being flooded by requests for money from organizations to help stop Trump, when frankly, I think that is the Republican Party’s problem now, not mine.  Stopping Trump in favor of Cruz and avoiding a convention floor fight does not do my side any good.  I’m less worried about Trump than I am that Sanders’ supporters won’t support Clinton, should she get the nomination.  I would have thought what happened in 2000 would have been remembered, but our collective memory is short in this country.

I have been called out on my talking too loudly, the last time being when I came out of the woods after a winter camping trip and was having breakfast at The Front Porch, in Ely, Minnesota.  Fresh from camping in snow at 14F (-10 C), I was now warm and eating, and I called home from my corner table to tell my wife how interesting it was to be in the Minnesota woods in winter with nobody else around.  When one comes out of the woods after a solo trip, there is a natural tendency to speak loudly.   After a few minutes, a man sitting near me, who was in a conversation with three to four other people, came over and asked if I could be quieter.  Not a little quieter.  Quieter.

I was deeply embarrassed.  I apologized to him and went outside to continue the conversation.  When I returned, I didn’t say anything to him—or to anybody.  I remained silent.

Look, people make inadvertent errors or do things that they shouldn’t.  Speaking loudly in a quiet room is not unheard of.  We shouldn’t do it, but a lot of us forget.  I did.  The appropriate way to handle it was the way the man did to me and they way I responded.  Blaming the other person is narcissistic.  That’s the narcissistic way, the “I am too important to be bothered with such stuff” way, the “I can’t possibly be wrong” way.  I apologized and left the room to talk.

After we left the foursome, the other couple also left, with what my wife described as “relief” on their faces, as they exited a conversation that had gone on too long for them.  We ran into the guy holding court and his wife as they were walking the opposite direction, away from the library.  I looked through him, treating him as a non-existent being.

We were in the Java Sea, not Columbus.

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