Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Whisperer

I don't consider myself to be nosy. I'll go out of my way not to be nosy. I'm not usually an eavesdropper either but being in open areas or cubicles (like at the library), makes it hard not to hear what others around me are saying. Usually it's not very hard to tune out the voices of others, but I still hear them. Unless they start whispering. Whispering is like an auto alert to your ears to start paying very close attention.

I conducted a very serious, un-scientific study to find out if the sound of whispering causes the human ear to perk up in an attempt to hear what is being said. Specifically, if what is being said isn't meant for the person who is perking up to hear it. Do secrets make bystanders more curious? Does the nugget of information being whispered become informational gold to the unintended listener? The answer was a resounding YES. All of my research subjects admitted to straining to hear what was being said when whispering commenced. And they were referring to conversations that they were not involved in! They perked up to hear whispering in other people's conversations!  

Maybe it's the break in the cadence and tone of the conversation that gets one's attention. Maybe we're all secretly nosy. Maybe those of us who are mothers are trained to pay closer attention because we're used to listening for our children. (Facat: 9 times out of 10, when little kids get quiet it's because they're into something they shouldn't be.) But why do we tune in even as adults and even when we're not with kids who could be doing something wrong? Maybe it's some magical cave man thing all of us have in us - the fight or flight kind of thing - only this pertains to listening not fighting or flighting.

I am acquainted with a person that I shall heretofore call Sometimes Silent Sally - or SSS for short. SSS is a fairly (never hushes) talkative gal. The two minute 'break and chat' rule is totally lost on her. She'll go on and on and on for 30 minutes if you let her. And talking with her can't really be called a conversation because conversations require more than 1 person conversing and you can't get a word in edge-wise with this gal. For some reason, she feels the need to use whispers to emphasize certain sections of her monologue. They're not necessarily vital portions of the story, either. Maybe it's an unconscious effort on her part to keep the listener's attention (because she's been droning on for so long). Inevitably, I'm forced to ask her to repeat something because she's freaking whispering! Why?????

Sometimes, talking softly is mysterious and alluring but in this case? NOPE! I mean, why whisper about what kind of sandwich you're planning to order? Who gives a freaking frack? I don't! In case you think I'm being overly annoyable, let me try to demonstrate a typical conversation with SSS:

SSS: Hey girl, how's it going?

Me: great, what's up?

SSS: Well, I was just passing through the office on my way to the bathroom and I saw you sitting at your cube.

Me: Oh, yeah, well I'm here allrighty.

SSS: Well, I figured I'd go to the library after work because it's an open floorplan and I can talk out loud and whisper because you know, the librarians pull out their cat-O-9-tails on people when they try to reshelve books themselves.  And it's good fun and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah (blah until I pass out from annoyance).

You see? Randomness, I tell you!!! Meanwhile, the people that were in my un-scientific study are straining their ears to hear what the whispered phrases were. I don't want to be rude and I'm not meaning to talk badly about SSS behind her back - I'm just stating the facts. Maybe the next time someone like SSS starts whispering I should just plug my ears and state that I'm not into secrets because I can't keep my mouth shut. I wonder if that would work?

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