07 October 2016

The German Private Voice

Normally I enjoy my time here in Berlin. The city overall has a "live and let live" attitude, and people generally don't care if you're white, black, blue, straight, gay, or a little curved. However, there are times in which sometimes one finds oneself being on the receiving side of the social police, when someone wants to change your behavior, not because you're violating some law, but simply because they find you irritating. Most of the time, these people who are irritated are old grumpy folks, who have nothing better to do than mind other people's business.

The other day, I was in a bookstore I frequent. I pass by this bookstore every now and then after work, sometimes just to browse the travel section, and read travel guidebooks, planning trips I might take in the future. So while I was sitting on a comfortable chair, someone behind me had a phone call.

Let me tell you, her voice wasn't loud at all. Her voice just had the volume one would expect in a public place. And no, we were not in a library, nor in a monastery, so you shouldn't expect the whole room to be silent. Nevertheless, there was this one elderly woman, sitting on another one of those comfortable chairs, who was visibly irritated when the phone call was happening.

She coughed. Loudly. She kept glancing at the other woman who was talking on the phone. And bizarrely enough, she also started glancing at other people having a conversation.

I was secretly amused. After all, the woman on the phone wasn't noticing her, and kept on talking. Really, the woman on the phone wasn't annoying at all: her voice wasn't too loud, it wasn't overpowering the room, her voice was just one of many subtle voices that together made up the white noise in the room.

And yet this woman was visibly irritated. Perhaps her skin wasn't thick enough.

If she was so noise-sensitive, then she should be living in a small village, where everything is quiet. Or she should be using earplugs.


  1. Oh boy... she should never visit a Starbucks. Sometimes, everybody is very quiet, but occasionally you get the guy who is holding a meeting or the gal who is calling all of her friends. That's life!

    1. Zhu,

      I know, right? If she doesn't like noises, she can either bring earplugs or just stay in her sound-proofed home.