On one of the many plane journeys I found myself on recently, I sat down next to a woman who could only be described as… audible. Actually, I wasn’t really next to her at all. She was sitting a row or two behind me, and another three seats to the right, with an aisle also between us.
But, judging by the volume of her voice, she might as well have been sitting right next to me. Because I could clearly hear everything she said. Everything. She. Said. Indeed, there was no way not to hear it.
It wasn’t even the volume of her voice that annoyed me. Or her nasal, heavy American accent. It was the fact that she was talking about herself, ad infinitum. I pitied the poor woman in the seat immediately next to her, who she had latched onto as her listener (err, victim). Every few sentences or so, the victim would politely nod or utter brief words of concurrence, and the woman would steam roll on with her monotonous monologue (or is it soliloquy, since she might as well have been talking to herself). Occasionally Ms. Motor Mouth would pause long enough for her victim to edge in a sentence of her own.
I repeatedly tried to block out the conversation (and by “conversation” I mean monologue) and refocus on the novel I was reading. But it was impossible. (They had not yet handed out the earphones, and sadly I had forgotten to pack the noise-cancelling headphones which I have now realized are indispensable for such journeys.)
No matter how hard I tried, my ears and my brain kept on getting drawn back to her riveting story about how she had driven all they way to the Washington airport from Florida so she could fly direct to Addis Ababa, and how she had only gotten permission from her manager to get one week off work, and how she had forgotten to pack her toothbrush, and other mundane minutiae of her life that could not possibly have been of interest to her victim or the dozens of other passengers within earshot of her on the plane.
I’ve encountered a lot of these people since returning to America. Sure, they also exist in Europe and Africa. But, they tend to be on crack or mentally unstable or homeless (or all of the above). In the US, on the other hand, “verbal diarrhea” appears to be an infection that plagues even functioning, drug-free members of society. It’s as though they just have no verbal filter, and narrate their entire stream of consciousness. Out loud. It’s like listening to the radio, but you can’t turn it off. I’ve noticed there are a lot of these “radio people” in America.
It’s especially noticeable when you hear a monologuer talking on the phone, because then you can’t even here the brief interrupting “Uh Huh” noise of the noble listener on the other end of the line; you perceive only the slight pause and inhalation of breath on the part of the speaker, before they barrel into the next repetitive detail of their day. And these monologuers always tend to repeat themselves (“And so yeah, I… [insert variation of point just stated]”). Perhaps because that’s the only way to come up with enough words to fill the air time.
God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.