Wait, Wait – Don’t Tell Me

I have had some very interesting encounters with complete strangers telling me very intimate details about their lives.   For example, there was the woman standing behind me at the supermarket checkout who admitted her counseling and antidepressants weren’t working.  Then there was the cashier who told me about the conversation with her doctor following the termination of her latest unwanted pregnancy.  Oh, and then there was a patron who came back from his trucking job to find his long time girlfriend shacked up with another ‘clown’.  

 All of these incidents (and more, which I have either entirely forgotten or blocked out) were equally horrifying.  They left me shaken, my standard closing line of, “Have a good day” or “Take care”, woefully inadequate for the situation. 

I used to think that I was the reason for these confessions.   I was convinced that there was something about me that made people spill their guts to an unknown person.  Maybe it was my midwestern dialect or the fact that I’m not terribly tall.  Maybe it’s that I’m unthreatening.  Maybe I give off a maternal pheromones.   Maybe it’s just because I don’t run in the other direction. 

However, after shopping this holiday season, I have totally rethought this phenomenon.  It has nothing to do with me.  People will just tell you anything.  Or, at least they don’t care if  you listen in.

There were three people in Target this past weekend who were talking on their cell phones.  Loudly.  Unabashedly telling all within shouting distance about their torrid, fascinating lives. 

There was the woman who was buying a gift for ‘Kathy’, whose baby was being baptized Catholic but she was actually Methodist (Is this still an issue?  Really?).    The man who leaned over his cart, as if he couldn’t walk without its support, gave a very boisterous speech about why his damn boss didn’t deserve a gift but, by God, he was going to buy one anyhow.   And, of course I couldn’t forget the woman who shared details about her last date with someone who didn’t interrupt much.

The next time you have something burning your soul that you must get off of your chest, please seek out someone responsible and kind to speak with, preferably in private.  I will post my desk schedule at the library if you really need it.  But, in the absence of a trusted friend, it’s apparently okay to grab your cell phone and walk proudly through Target (or Meijer, in a pinch) announcing to all near your darkest secrets. 

Remember what Mark Twain said: “Never tell the world your troubles.  Half don’t care and the other half are glad of them.”   Then again, Mark Twain never owned a cell phone, did he?

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