Monday, November 9, 2009

Once we were didactic cheerleaders

posted Tue, 23 Nov 2004

Here is something that annoys me greatly: Mothers talking to their children in that Teaching Them Something Important tone of voice. You know what I’m talking about – the mom who is determined to turn every experience into an Opportunity To Learn. This wouldn’t bother me except this speech always seems to be at cellphone volume, not indoor voice volume, so I have to hear it against my wishes.

I was in the greengrocer’s last night. It’s a very small store, but not so small that you can hear every whisper from every point. There were maybe a dozen of us in there, including the clerks. I could hear no one’s conversation except this one woman’s with her toddler. They were on the other side of the store next to the potatoes, which you think would have absorbed the sound, and I was by the apples. Except for the murmur of their voices, I could not really hear the people next to me.

But I could hear this woman all the way across the store. She was talking the annoying, perky, clearly-enunciated, loud Educational talk. “Should we get BEETS for Thanksgiving? What ELSE do we eat at Thanksgiving? Should we get some CORN? What about TOMATOES?” Her kid loved it, which was fine, but I’ll bet he could have heard her even if she had been speaking in a normal tone of voice. Maybe even lower than a normal tone voice – he was young enough that he probably hasn’t lost any of his hearing. But not everyone in the store needed to learn all her fruits and vegetables or what that family was going to eat on Thanksgiving.

I was stuck next to a mom like that on a plane once. And yes, it is almost always mothers. Fathers don’t seem to speak annoying perky at high volumes. I don’t know if they speak annoying perky at all. If they speak loudly or yell, they still speak normally.

Anyhow. I was next to this lady and her son, a boy about seven. She was determined to Teach Him about airplanes and flying, so gave a running commentary that did not stop the entire flight. “That’s the WING, Jeffy!” she explained patiently and loudly. “The WING changes shape as we TAXI so we can LIFT off the ground.” Right. Like a young boy is really going to understand fluid dynamics anyhow.

She went on explain the CLOUDS and the BODIES OF WATER and why SAFETY was IMPORTANT and a bunch of other baloney. I always carry earplugs when I fly. I made a point of putting them in while she could see me doing so, but she was undaunted. Not only that, but her high-pitched voice pierced through the plugs – which really work better at filtering lower frequencies – like a hot knife through butter.

Are these women completely oblivious to how annoying they are? Are they undamped? Or do they just not care? Should we put them on the list of people it’s OK to knock off without penalty, like the ones who drive in the shoulder when there is a traffic jam and then expect to be let back into the regular lane? I vote yes.

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