I used to delight at listening in on strangers’ conversations while wandering a city, but then I moved to New York. Now, I don’t have a choice in the matter: The way people here gab on their cell phone, it’s as if they don’t understand the device transmits their voice electronically and believe they must communicate by lung power alone.
The worst offenders are those hands-free chatting chatters with earbuds you can’t see. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve entered a conversation before realizing this person is addressing someone else entirely, and the “Hey, what’s up?” wasn’t meant for me after all. Sometimes I carry on talking to myself so no one notices my mistake, but of course, this makes me part of the problem.
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It wasn’t always like this. When I first arrived in NYC, I loved the way I could walk down the block and hear, unfolding all around me, 10 different conversations in 10 different accents. I’d hang back at crosswalks longer than necessary to catch the end of a story told by someone with a brusque Brooklyn drawl or a Kentucky twang.
But I have become a put-my-head-down, mind-my-own-business New Yorker. Does everyone really need to talk so loudly? I don’t want to know what time you think you’ll be home tonight or what happened in that meeting at work today or what you’re going to eat for dinner tonight. Actually, I’m quite interested in what you’re having for dinner, but that’s not the point: You take the fun out of eavesdropping by giving me a headache. Maybe if we all turned it down a bit, we’d get on each other’s nerves a little less. Now, wouldn’t that be something worth shouting about?