Inside Voices

6 May

It happened Saturday.  I was sitting in a restaurant, quietly consuming a salad and reading an iBook, amidst a smattering of other people quietly doing whatever it is they were doing.  

The restaurant had just opened.  It would fill up by noon, and be noisy, with an ever-growing crowd waiting for tables.  It is Virginia Beach’s favorite pizza joint.

Only . . . fifteen minutes after opening time, the restaurant doors were flung open as a hungry baseball team of boys, aged about 8-11, burst in.  

The atmosphere automatically changed.  From quiet to head-explodingly loud.  The boys had just finished a game and were talking smack.

Since the decibels went up so suddenly, and not gradually as they usually do in that restaurant, I noticed.  It annoyed me.  Here I was, trying to read my book . . . 

It occurred to me that this was another of those perfect storms, socially.

Nobody’s fault, however . . .

I started to compose a theoretical letter to the coach, in my head.  I have thought about it off  and on ever since.

I would remind him, politely, how families look to him to train their children, not just in baseball but in life.

I would remind him that American families no longer eat dinner together, so there is really no place in the home that children learn manners for dinner hour anymore.  Especially since baseball practices and other sporting team events have largely overtaken the family dinner hour . . .

It is no one’s fault, but it is what it is. 

And it creates the elephant in the room.

I would tell him about the fact that, unbeknownst to him, a restaurant went from orderly quiet to loud shouts in 30 seconds flat when his team entered.  Later on, when the restaurant is full and people are waiting for tables, voices will be raised to be heard.  That is unnecessary in a quiet restaurant.

I would tell him that the concept of “inside voices” is largely vanishing.  And that is a shame.  Sure boys are learning to become men when they play sports.  Bravado, swaggering, and jokingly talking smack are part of that.  But so, ideally, is consideration for others.  Knowing when it is appropriate to speak at the top of your voice, and when it is not.

I would tell him that, on a crowded planet, it behooves us all to look around a room when we enter it, trying to gauge the activities that are already in progress.  Trying to fit in with the atmosphere there, not change it.  There are far too many of us all insisting that everything reflect our personal tastes de jour.  And that is making this world a very chaotic place.

I realize my time for reading could not go on forever in that restaurant.  And I didn’t expect that.  But I also know that my quietness inconvenienced nobody.  When in doubt, being quiet is a good option.  

Those who come into a place shouting at the top of their lungs can’t be so sure about the inconvenience factor.

And maybe it is worth thinking about that, from time to time. And, if you’re a coach, it might even be worth teaching your teammembers about the existence of others and keeping their voices down in public places.

Just a thought.



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