By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Confronting without Confrontation
I heard him as soon as I entered the store. He was a well-dressed ‘gentleman’ sitting to my left on the second of four stools facing the sidewalk. He was speaking so loudly into his cell phone, that a few other customers rolled their eyes or shook their heads, resigned to his affront.
Some blog posts take several hours to plan, research and write. Others, like this one, literally almost hit me in the face. I knew this day would come, and I was ready.
After ordering my sandwich at the deli counter in the back of the Groceria, I came back up front to pay the cashier. “Loud guy”(LG) was still yammering away on his cell phone, much to the dismay of everyone in the store. While paying, I muttered, Can you believe this?, to the clerk, who shrugged in agreement, as if to say, I know man, but what can I do?
As I grabbed some napkins just two feet from LG, I pulled out my cell phone and faked an incoming call, loud enough for him to hear me.
Hey Tommy. I’m in a store and can’t talk. I’ll call you in a bit. Loud Guy neither flinched nor took the hint. His volume didn’t drop a decibel, grating on everyone within earshot. The owner and cashier fidgeted behind the counter, but said nothing.
After taking a seat at the small counter on the other side of the entrance, I assessed the situation and worked through my options. I glared at LG in disbelief twice; then shaking my head, I muttered, Quiet, loud enough for the gentleman sitting 2 stools away to respond in agreement, but apparently not loud enough to have any impact on LG.
What made the one-sided conversation even more painful is that LG was haggling with a flower shop employee in a condescending tone.
Sixty-five dollars? Come on, can’t you do the whole thing for me for fifty?, he pleaded.
After agreeing on a price, he proceeded to read off his credit card information over the phone. He interrupted and corrected the flower shop employee twice as the card numbers were read back to him for verification. While he slowly repeated the numbers as if he were speaking to a child, I reached my limit.
I calmly but deliberately turned to LG and said,
Excuse me, out of respect for everyone you’re sharing public space with, could you please lower your volume or take the call outside?
The elderly gentleman sitting 2 stools away from LG immediately looked at me as if to say, Wow. Where did that come from? My ally, sitting near me snapped a look at LG, and blurted, I agree.
The tension in the store broke as the workers and customers all stared at the man as if to say, Seriously. How could you think that was ok?
Loud Guy gave me a patronizing smirk, but immediately reduced his volume to just above a whisper.
Now came the moment of truth. Would the guy finish his call and challenge me? Would he make a snide remark when he left? Surprisingly, he picked up his belongings and left without incident or comment and continued his call on the far side of the sidewalk.
After he left, a bit shaken, I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and said, Thank you for your support. Most people would sit there seething but put their heads down when someone speaks up. He replied, You’re welcome. I always take my calls outside, in the foyer or in the restroom away from people. It’s all about awareness.
Amen, brother. Amen.