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Public Space, Private Space

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I drop my oldest son off at his tutorial, and spend the morning working in a nearby Starbucks. You see a few of the same people here — some retirees, obviously, but a couple who work here like me, as kind of a home office.

Two tables over from where I’m sitting, there’s this man who, when I arrived, was carrying on a loud conversation with someone across the table about a local economic matter. This coffee shop is full of people, but he was talking much louder than anybody else. After half an hour, the man’s conversation partner left, which was the man’s signal to get on his mobile phone and start calling people, and having the same conversation with them. He’s been at it for over an hour, and it drives me crazy. The entire coffee shop is sitting here having to listen to this man’s tedious conversation, and he’s completely oblivious to the fact that he’s made himself impossible to ignore. As far as he’s concerned, he’s sitting there in a bubble, just him and his mobile phone and his conversation.

What is wrong with people? Why don’t people know how to act in public? Where is the consideration for others? It’s one thing if you have a conversation partner in a coffee shop, though one would hope you would have enough self-awareness and consideration for others to keep your voice at an appropriate level. But when you don’t have anyone else sitting there, and you take that opportunity to get on your mobile phone and blah blah blah for well over an hour, holding everyone hostage to your conversation?

I am awfully irritable these days.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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