I’m all for free and open communication, and goodness knows we could use more of that in the legislative buildings of Hartford and D.C. these days. However, there’s a reason for the old adage, “Silence is golden.” There are times and places where talking isn’t a good thing.
For instance, anything said through a closed bathroom door probably shouldn’t be said at all. There are few things more disconcerting than hearing a disembodied voice in the shower, with the possible exception of someone screaming just outside the shower door because you couldn’t hear them from the other room. It’s also useless to try to communicate while I’m “using the facilities.” I don’t multitask well, so leave me to finish up my business (in this case, the morning newspaper).
Eating cereal is another process that needs to be respected with monastic quiet. While there are savages out there who choose to eat their cereal without milk, most of us realize that the sand starts running out of the hourglass as soon as we pour the milk into the bowl. It’s a race to eat it before while it still maintains that critical crispness-to-wetness ratio. Sure, the top layer might stay crispy for a few “Good mornings,” or the occasional, “Did you see the game last night?” but the bottom of the bowl is going to end up a cold soup of sadness with anything longer.
While we’re at it, can we stop talking during movies? At home, we can often pause what we’re viewing to listen to someone. The ability to pause live TV enables one of my few redeeming qualities: I’ll stop right in the middle of a big game just so I can really listen to what my wife is saying. (What she doesn’t know is that this makes it easier when I resume watching because now I can fast-forward through the commercials.)
There’s no pause button when you go to a theatre, though it would be nice if there were a mute option. Some people treat a movie as an interactive experience, shouting warnings to the characters on screen as if they could affect the outcome. Others act as if they’re Roger Ebert, alone in the theatre and commenting on the filmmakers’ choices.
People also shouldn’t be allowed to chat up the teller at the bank or anyone working at the DMV. No one’s ever happy to be in either line, and pleasantries do nothing but extend that time. All public transactions should occur as if we were in line for the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.
We’d all have a better experience if we learned to rein in our talking. For example, my wife and I have a rule in the car that we pause the podcast before speaking, and neither of us takes a call while we’re driving (not because it’s safe or smart, but because it’s most likely a telemarketer). Another rule is it’s best not to talk to me in the morning; the news about Grandma’s broken hip can wait until lunch. Anyone is free to talk to me while I’m eating a salad or talking to a distant relative who’s asking for money.
Humans crave social interaction, and talking to each other is a critical component in maintaining harmony for the community. We just need to do it less.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.