Thursday, December 1, 2011

OMG...shut up already.

The other day I was in the elevator at a major Boston hospital heading to the 16th floor.  The elevator was full of people; visitors carrying balloons, nurses, doctors, a social worker, me and an EKG tech with her cart. We were all jammed in. On floor 3, the doors opened and two older ladies stepped into the already over-crowded elevator, oblivious to everyone around them. Once they pushed in, they continued to have a very loud and very lively conversation about a recently hospitalized friend.

This went on for several floors. They did not move nor quiet down at all  when we stopped at different floors; people had to squeeze past them to get out. They just continued their animated and, what should have been a very private conversation, as though no one else existed.

Finally they departed the elevator once we reached the eighth floor. When the doors finally closed, we all just looked at each other and smiled. One brave women said to all of us, "Oh. My. God. Shut up already!" We all broke out into laughter and continued our now quiet ride lost in our own thoughts.

When I got off on the 16th floor, I hurried to the nurse's station to start a chart review for a patient referred to our hospice service. Once seated, I became aware of a conversation between two nurses. They were talking about their mothers. On and on they went, complaining about one thing and then another.  I could hear them from where I sat, about 20 feet away.  I am sure that many patients heard them as well. Part of me wanted to scream, "OMG, shut up already." But I sat silent and just did my work.  Later, I went to talk with the patient and family about hospice; a very painful subject for them. The patient's room was near to where the nurses were having their spirited conversation. Once in the room, and even with the door shut, I could still hear them laughing and talking loudly. I am sure the patient and her family could hear them as well.  It was not only unprofessional, it was down right rude.

This scene plays out thousands of times every single hour in every corner of the world.  People having loud conversations about private matters for all to hear no matter the setting. They do it into their cellphones, face to face and into little cameras perched atop computers oblivious to anyone around them.

They do it in elevators, public restrooms, hallways, trains, buses, stores and restaurants. They feel entitled to have these conversations regardless of who can hear them or who they are interrupting or annoying. They become angry if you tell them to be quiet during public performances like the ballet, the theater or the movies.

I just don't get this new kind of brashness.  When did it start?  And is it me, or is it becoming worse?

I cannot stand it anymore. I mean, I cannot go anywhere it seems without people talking out loud about very private matters. Without people acting as though this is perfectly normal and that they are entitled to do what they want, where they want and when they want.

So when did this all become the new norm?  With the proliferation of cellphone use? With the idea that we can be reached anywhere, anytime, anyplace? Or did it start decades ago when TV talk show hosts started talking about private matters to a national audience. Should I be blaming Phil Donahue? Or perhaps Oprah?

I am not sure. I can remember, and perhaps I am dating myself, but I recall people going into a private phone booth and shutting the doors so no one could hear their conversation when in public. I recall people whispering to one another.  I recall being quiet at the library. I recall people not wanting everyone to hear everything they were saying.  I recall being quiet during performances. 

So when did all of that change.  And why?  Will it ever end?  And, more importantly, is the worse yet to come.

I don't know. But what I do know is that I am jumping onto the "OMG... Just Shut Up" bandwagon.  I won't say it out loud all of the time, of course I won't. I don't want to be rude. But I will be thinking it. And I will remind people that perhaps they should take their conversation elsewhere when I feel it is appropriate. Like those nurses. I should have said something.

I also want to scream it at the TV news anchors and the political pundits as well.  We just don't want to hear every personal private issue of everyone on the planet.

Or do we?

Perhaps that is why reality TV is so popular.  Who knows.

Anyway, I think it time we start to call people out on their bad behavior in public. Start asking people to just stop. Tell them they are invading our privacy by forcing us to hear private, intimate details of their lives that we just don't care to hear about. And stopping ourselves from doing the same.

We object to smokers and ask them to step outside. I think it is high time we start requiring the blabbers to do the same.

 I think people talk too much anyway. Sometimes people are talking to me and in my mind I'm just like "shut up, shut up, shut up...blah blah blah blah blaaaaah.~~~Ellen DeGeneres

Never miss a chance to shut up ~~~Will Rogers

It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.~~~Maurice Switzer


  1. Well said. And I think Facebook supports people being able to live behind a screen name and talk about their most intimate moments... Again... Put the keyboard away and shut up! It's one thing to send funny stuff out there.. It's another to talk about your most inner personal stuff

  2. Oh Janice, this really hit a nerve. Last week my husband and I went to a local bead store looking for something my daughter needed for necklaces she was making. There were 3 women in there and one of them (the owner I believe) was going on and on, quite loudly, about her husbands funeral and how no one from the gym came and how she didn't care and blah, blah, blah!!! It was horrible! Finally I said to my husband 'lets go!' I wouldn't have bought anything from her no matter what.

    I feel the same way, society has become somewhat obscene and I don't like it one bit. There are no morals, no sense of decency. People feel entitled to do or say whatever they please. Girls dress like hookers and then wonder why they are treated so poorly. Maybe my age is showing too. Or my dignity.

    Love those 3 quotes!


  3. I love this post, and have noticed the same regarding manners. Where have they gone? I will no longer feel alone when out with my daughters...forced to listen to conversations none of us have any desire to listen to. I will now feel you sitting on my shoulder, the two of us thinking together "OMG, shut up already"!

  4. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for posting this!!!! I have been angry about this behavior at my job (and in public) for YEARS!!

    People in other cubicles yelling over the wall about their latest personal crisis, or blabbing a loud insensitive opinion.

    Until I read this post, I've thought I was alone in my frustration, and believed that maybe I was being too sensitive. Maybe now that I feel validated, I'll start to speak up.

    Also, thank you so much for this blog. It is greatly encouraging every time I read it.

  5. So true, wish I were brave and had the nerve to tell people to shut up.

    I was at a Panera Bread and these two women were talking about pregnancy and childbirth.
    They were very loud and obnoxious and I had gone to Panera to take a little break and relax with a coffee and a magazine. Needless to say they ruined my coffee break.

  6. Unfortunately, I have been guilty of this! Thank you for the insight, I truly appreciate the the gentle reminder of "It's not about me" Thank you, and God bless!

  7. Being nice matters! For those around you:
    - please remember to turn down the ringer on your cell phone
    - talk in your normal voice tone when on your phone (modern technology makes it possible for the person on the other end to hear you just fine) so you don't have to shout. If you need to hold conversations with the speaker phone on - consider getting your hearing checked
    - just use first names when talking about someone's situation (in public places) because we don't need to know which "Kirsten & Taylor" you are talking about
    - realize that some items are private and personal and don't need to be shared with strangers standing in line with you. Turn off the computer and cell phone and have a heartfelt, private discussion that is face-to-face
    - Be aware of and acknowledge others around you. Apologize if you've been asked to "shut up already"
    - Go for a walk and turn off your cell / laptop...make eye contact with at least three people each day and say "hello"
    - Practice random acts of kindness
    - Check out an etiquette book at the library (or online) and let's start using some manners, again
    Thank you!