Just after books, the word that comes to mind when I think of a library is “quiet.” Thanks (or no thanks) to some students at Salt Lake Community College though, I’m starting to think of a library as a place where one’s most private conversations are broadcast for all to hear.
Last week while in the Markosian Library, I was just surfing the net in peace when I heard yelling. I was on the main level and the racket was above me. I looked up to see a guy on his cell phone, screaming at someone about a money issue. My deaf dog could have heard this guy’s ruckus. A number of people looked to the source of the commotion like I did, having lost the ability to focus on their studies. The fault was not that he felt like he needed to get his point across, but that he violated the understood terms of voice volume in the library.
This second story put me over the edge. Sitting at one of the computers on the 2nd floor of the Student Center the day after “The Outburst” a woman’s conversation about relationships dominated the air. Part of me wanted to pay attention to the conversation and get the juicy details, but with all of the “he said, she said” banter, it soon became just a bunch of annoying noise that I wished wasn’t there. Granted, that area might not be considered a “quiet zone” like the library, but this woman could have been heard from the LAC. I wish she’d had the respect to use her “inside voice” so that the rest of us didn’t have to hear what she needed to say.
What goes around comes around, I guess. In the exact same spot on the 2nd floor the next day, my own phone shattered the silence, blaring loudly with the beckoning of a caller. Given my previous experiences I was kind of embarrassed, yet determined to handle the situation better than Mr. Outburst and Soap Opera Lady. I apologized for the disturbance, answered the phone and told the person on the other end of the line to hold for just a moment. I went to an area where I knew I could talk louder than a whisper, had my conversation and then returned to the computer.
One thing I failed to do was put my phone on silent. I found this out a short time later, as that annoying, generic T-Mobile ring filled the air. I performed the same procedure as in the first call (including forgetting to put my phone on silent). As luck would have it, the third call of the day came a bit later. I don’t think I’ve ever received that many phone calls in a 35-minute period in my entire life. Drill repeated – put caller on hold, apologized, hustled to the safe zone, took the call.
Not that I am some ultra-respectful cell phone saint, as my phone violated the quiet rule a fourth time during a test a few days later, but I feel like there ought to be greater awareness of what we are subjecting others’ ears to when we are having private conversations in public.
I really don’t want to know that you feel like you got conned out of some money or that you wish a relationship had gone better. I’m sure you don’t want to hear me talking to my doctor, a future employer or an old friend, either. My conversations were between me and the person on the other end of the line and they should stay that way.
Next time your phone rings in a quiet place, have the respect to do the drill. Remember, apologize to those around you, answer the phone and tell the person on the other end of the line to hold for just a moment, then get up and go to a place where you can speak louder. In return, I’ll always make sure my phone is on silent.