I'm a writer, so I can't help myself, I eavesdrop. It's part of being a writer, sometimes a good part, sometimes, like today, a not so good part.
It's on days like today that I wonder whether people - on buses and trains and airplanes and coffee shops - somehow just don't realize that they're surrounded by other people who can hear every single word they're speaking. And they're talking about the most intimate details of their lives.
I went over to Granville Island this afternoon to pick up lunch and some odds and ends. Because I live on one side of False Creek and Granville Island is the other, I take the ferry over. It's a tiny little boat - as you can see above - that holds no more than 12 people, and those 12 people are all kind of crowded together. Today there were only 4 of us - and two of them were talking as if they were all alone. Now I can sort of understand this on an airplane or a bus - because of the way the seats are set up, you can't see the people around you, and it does feel as if you're alone in your own private aisle. But not on the ferry. It's an oval, maybe 20 feet long by 6 or 7 feet across and it's wide open. You can see everyone from everywhere. So there's absolutely no way that they didn't know that all the rest of them could hear their conversation.
I'm a writer, right? I eavesdrop. It's part of what I do. But this made me uncomfortable and I started thinking about why that was.
For a while I just thought, oh well, they're engrossed in their conversation - but then I thought, how rude. Because it is rude to talk about the intimate details of your private life in a place where you KNOW other people are listening. It's rude because the listeners have no choice but to hear those details - even if they don't want to. It's rude because you're talking about somebody's life - and problems - in public for all the world to hear.
Weird, huh? I never thought that I'd be uncomfortable eavesdropping but I mostly thought about the woman they were talking so spitefully about and how she would feel if she knew that other people were hearing about this. And they used her name - and it was an unusual enough name that if I ever meet a woman with that name, I'll wonder about her. I won't be able to help myself. That's why it's rude.