I’m a book worm. When I was a kid being a book worm was not cool and I’m pretty sure that being a book worm today in grade school is still not the hip thing to be. But I love books and a library to me is hallowed ground. It is a sanctuary from the chaos of the world. I’ve always believed that being in a library with my nose in a good book is just as good as going on a vacation without having to pack, buy a plane ticket, rent a car or book a hotel. You have an entire world at your fingertips waiting for you to browse and enjoy.
When I go to the library there is an expectation that when you walk into the doors you are going to whisper; keep your conversations to a minimum and try your best not to distract others. It’s a cardinal sin in libraries to run around like you’re in a super market but for some reason I get very annoyed when people talk like they are discussing their latest recipes in the middle of the mall food court. I love libraries because most of the time it is quiet and most of the time people speak in hushed tones.
I loathe noise. My family is well aware of my inability to cope with noise. I think I’ve gotten better through the years but I still struggle with people who tend to speak in what I consider to be ear-shattering tones. Growing up, it was considered rude if you tried to speak over someone else. It was a sign that you do not respect another person’s input or value their opinion on topic of discussion. Listening was every bit as important if not more important than forcefully speaking one’s mind. We are just weird that way and I know its not the case for everyone, but it worked for us.
In my extended family when people speak loudly we will say things like, “Are you deaf?” or “whose attention are you trying to attract?” Sometimes we will say, “Don’t talk like you’re out in the middle of the bush,” which people in Samoa will often do to keep track of one another when they are working on opposite ends of a large plot of land. But in every day conversations, we rarely raise our voices, unless of course our parents or elders are scolding us for some indiscretion.
When I’m at a park, out shopping, running an errand or standing in a public place, I DO NOT want to hear your conversation! In my opinion, if I can hear what you’re saying, you have unintentionally invited me into your war council. You may not want my opinion on why you shouldn’t dress your ten-year-old daughter in revealing clothing or why your 14-year-old son is still wetting the bed or sucking his thumb, but lady when you are speaking loud enough to make Tony Robbins stop and listen than everyone in the store is now a member of your prayer circle.
I have Attention Deficit Disorder (not the hyperactive type) so it’s very hard for me to focus, especially if you are talking too loud. So when we are sitting in a room and it sounds (to me) like you have taken up residency inside my brain, you’re talking too loud. If you are at the front of a bus and I can hear you talking before I even get on the bus, you’re talking too loud. If we are sitting face to face and my eyebrows are vibrating whenever you say something, you’re talking too loud.
I like people with powerful voices. My friend Hema has a loud, commanding voice and when he speaks, it is with respect and authority. But in normal conversation, Hema does not speak in the same booming voice because like most people, he understands when and when not to use that voice. Other people (names withheld to protect the annoying), just don’t get it. They have only one volume and usually it is cranked up and amplified so that animals become skittish when they are around and humans lose a bit of their hearing when they are in their presence.
I’ve always spoken in a very soft voice. People have to ask me to repeat myself sometimes because they can’t hear me. I admit that can be annoying too. But it’s the way that I was raised. My parents both had very soft voices too but we could communicate just fine because we listened and we never interrupted each other. Because of my parents’ example I rarely shout (unless I’m cheering at a game or yelling at someone on the road at which point you would beg me to shut my mouth). I respect that you were raised differently and you like to shout rather than talk. I’m trying to overcome this lack of compassion for people who speak too loud, I really am. I just don’t understand why we can’t speak in our library voices.