The Art Of Knowing When To Leave Somebody Alone

Sometimes people just want to be left alone. People give clues to signal their desire for this. Sometimes the clues are subtle, other times not so subtle. When I want to be left alone, I go about it with the subtlety of a baboon. Most of the time it works; this time it didn’t.

About a week ago I took my car to the dealership to have work done. I was staring down the barrel of a two-hour wait so I decided to grab a bite to eat. There’s a subway nearby, visions of meatball subs were dancing through my head.

I grabbed my sub and sat down near the back. I popped in my ear buds, opened my book, and started eating. I was in the last 100 pages of The Martian and I was looking forward to finishing it. At that point, I was the only soul in subway.

A couple came in and placed an order. Shortly after receiving their food, they headed my way. For the record, there were roughly 25 open seats; they sat in the booth directly behind me. There I am— ear buds in— nose in a book— meatball sub in hand— the couple sat two feet away from me.

They started talking in their outside voices. They were beyond loud, they were obnoxious. I cranked up the volume and tried to read. I failed. At this point I was determined to finish my sub and get away from the chatterboxes behind me.

I was shoveling the sub in like a competitive eater when I picked up on the specifics of their conversation. Apparently they had a sick family member at home and they had been spewing— a lot.

I decided that the best course of action would be to woof down my meatball sub and get the hell out of there. Let me be the first to tell you, it’s hard to swallow a meatball while listening to a story about scrubbing vomit out of Berber carpet.

I still had my headphones in when the lady tapped me on the shoulder. She obviously didn’t pick up on my clues. I looked up at her, took out the ear bud closest to her and asked how I could help her.

She blurted out— “How do you like the book? I want to see the movie.”

I don’t have a mouth filter so there were a million rude responses on the tip of my tongue. As politely as I could, I told her that I didn’t know because I can’t concentrate on it. Then I asked her to please leave me alone. She sat back down mumbling. I shoveled the last few bites down my throat and left.

I walked back to the waiting area, sat down, and returned to my music and book. Guess who showed up 20 minutes later? You got it, that same loud couple. This time they sat all the way across the room from me.

When my car pulled up I took a detour past the couple. They were in the middle of a conversation at a more reasonable volume this time. I cleared my throat and interrupted them. I said in a loud voice “the book is great,” and then left before she could respond.

Copyright © 2015 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted for non-commercial uses, provided full credit and a live link are given.


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