Many people seem to view it as a synonym for “doing nothing.” Or “waiting for something more interesting to occupy my time.” And so they think nothing of interrupting… it’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Sometimes it’s out in public, sometimes it’s in our own homes. It’s always irritating.
Jaime ranted about this problem here. Kelly ranted about it here. I’m sure other bloggers have ranted about it as well, but those are the two posts that caught my attention recently, and now it’s my turn.
(Only I won’t be using gifs.)
To be fair, my husband doesn’t do this nearly as much as he used to. Also in his defense, I read a lot, so if he has something he legitimately needs to talk to me about (as opposed to, “hey look, a funny picture on the internet…”) I don’t mind a quick interruption, at which point I can take a break if it’s something quick, or start looking for a good stopping point if it’s not.
And kids, well… I don’t have any, but I assume that’s pretty much a hopeless case.
Out in public, though, when you’re reading and a complete stranger decides to strike up a conversation… this is what I don’t get. Only, I kind of do…
Because to the general public — the non-reading public — reading is something they do when they’re killing time. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment, waiting for a train, waiting… for anything really. A magazine or a newspaper is just as good as a book, because the idea is just not to look like you’re doing nothing. Personally I could sit alone with my thoughts all day, but most people view this as strange behavior, so it’s frowned upon in public. Hence, the book. (Or magazine or newspaper or even smartphone…) And many of these people would be happy to put aside their prop if an alternative presented itself. I’m not one of them.
As a shy, socially awkward introvert, I don’t like it when strangers start talking to me period. Yes, I really would rather sit in silence and stare into space than make small talk, thank you very much. But when I’m actually in the middle of something? (Yes, even if it’s only reading…) And you decide to strike up a conversation?
You. Are. Interrupting. Me.
You may think you’re being friendly, but you’re actually being quite rude, so don’t be surprised if I’m not all that receptive. At best, I might smile, allow a tenth of a second of eye contact, and give you a one-word response. Loud sighing and flat-out ignoring are also possibilities.
I suppose, “I’m sorry, but I’m trying to read,” is a more polite response, but… why should I apologize? Why should I have to explain myself at all? I mean, stating the obvious is actually kind of insulting to you if you think about it. You can see that I’m reading. You choose to ignore that information, as if it isn’t relevant. To you, your wanting to talk is more important than my wanting to read.
And you know what, if that’s all it was, I could live with that. We all have our self-serving biases. No, what really gets me is that society is on your side. You interrupt me, yet somehow I’m made to feel like the rude one if I don’t immediately drop what I’m doing and engage in conversation. Because I’m only reading, after all. I should close the book and stop ignoring the real world, right? I mean, why would any decent person choose to read a book when real human interaction is an alternative?
I guess reading, when not done in the privacy of one’s own home, isn’t socially-acceptable.
Apparently interrupting someone who’s immersed in a book is.
And that’s crap.
To all of my fellow readers out there, the next time you’re so wrapped up in your book that you don’t notice the person sit down next to you until they decide it’s social hour, just remember…
They’re not being friendly; they’re being rude.
How do you respond when this happens to you? Do you acquiesce to social pressure? Do you ignore the other person? Does this bother you as much as it does me?
When I had a job outside the home, I was ALWAYS interrupted when I would read on my lunch break…
“What are you reading? Who’s it by? What’s it about? Is it good? Is that all you do is read? Why do you read so much?” (And other less friendly comments, because reading is for stuck-up snobs/smarties, apparently.)
“I’m not reading ANYTHING at the moment, since you interrupted me.”
What a perfect response!
And what is that all about, anyway? Since when did intelligence/being smart become a dysfunction? Well, past high school anyway (grin). “The intellectual elite.” Does that mean that the name caller is admitting to being a moronic scumbag and is proud of it? ;-) It drives me nuts too, and I have been a fairly social/friendly person at times.
I like your response. And I Love this article! I am glad you are following me now Charleen, I am following you too now. Looking forward to sharing bookie-things.
I perhaps respond a little more sharply because I’m NOT a social person, but either way, it’s frustrating. Thanks for stopping by!
I used to read through wedding receptions. My husband did wedding videos and he didn’t really need a second camera during the reception, so I’d read. I probably got a lot of dirty looks, but didn’t notice. Nobody wanted to talk to “the help” anyway. When someone interrupts me, it’s usually with a “what are you reading?” Now that I have the kindle, I’ll tell them it’s a really stodgy classic like War and Peace and they’ll leave me alone :).
I read something a while back talking about how e-readers — and not seeing a book cover — have influenced bookish conversation “in the wild.” The author seemed to think that seeing the book someone is reading leads to more conversation, whereas I would have thought the not knowing would lead to more questions. Unwelcome questions, perhaps, but questions nonetheless.
I get interrupted a lot on my breaks at work, it irritates me awfully. I’ve had people say anything from ‘Are you reading?’, which considering I have a book in my hand, seems a superfluous question, to the usual ‘Is it a good book?’ and most recently ‘I’ve never read a book, they’re boring’. I generally politely answer questions and go back to my book, because I find the interruption rude as well.
I understand that some people prefer other things to reading, but I’ll never understand the people who act proud of the fact that they don’t read. Thanks for stopping by!
That attitude blows me away! How sad for them . . . LOL. And to think, they admit it out in public (grin)
I couldn’t agree more!
So rude, right? Thanks for reading!
Reblogged this on Rosemarie Cawkwell.
I so get this. Loved the other two blogs, too. I’ve had that happen numerous times. My husband does it all of the time, but I try to cut him some slack. He’s an extrovert and can’t help himself.
The gulf between introverts and extroverts is a wide one. (Not, of course, to say that all readers are introverts and all interrupters are extroverts, though it does seem to be the trend…)
My husband is an extrovert, and he likes to read. But he also likes to interrupt me when I am reading if an idea happens in his head.
Exactly. I am interrupted at lunch ALL THE TIME. I help people all day long, when I’m lunch I just want peace and quiet and a book. I don’t want to tell anybody what I’m reading or if I like it, etc. As a hardcore introvert, I find constant interaction exhausting, I need a little bit of downtime (i.e. lunch) or making it through the rest of the day is difficult.
I’ve nearly perfected my ‘leave me alone’ stare, but people don’t always get the hint. Or they think it’s weird. “Why would you go to lunch alone? I would’ve gone with you…”. Um, because I like alone.
Admittedly, I cave under social pressure more than I’d like. But I’m a bit petulant about it, I usually slam the book shut or something minorly obnoxious. Silly, but satisfying.
I didn’t get this TOO much when I worked at Borders, thankfully, but it still happened. You would hope that fellow book-people would be more considerate. (And yes, time to recharge is a MUST when working retail… or anything with the public, really. I seemed to need it more there than any of my other service-type jobs though.)
I get home from working (as a librarian) and feel like I just deflate. There’s nothing left.
Most of the time I don’t get interrupted when I’m just out and about, such as waiting in the sandwich line at Safeway or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. The worst though, is if I’m taking my lunch at my desk and I have my Kindle on it and reading while I eat, and people are talking to me while I am on my lunch break. It’s not about work that they’re talking to me, but it’s still a bit frustrating. If I have an easily eaten lunch that can be eaten while not sitting at a table, I sit outside on the little deck on this outbuilding outside my work, and read there because no one will bother me.
Poor boyfriend always says “Go ahead and read, don’t let me bother you”, but then will interrupt me often with “look at this”, etc. He understands, though, honestly. He reads too, but not as much as I do.
My husband tries, but as I said… I read a lot… so if he wants to show me something, the odds are that it’s while I’m reading. As long as he’s making an effort, I appreciate it.
Reading while walking is usually what gets me in trouble . . .
Ha! I used to get yelled at for this all the time when I was a kid. Thankfully it’s a habit I eventually grew out of… I bump into things often enough, I certainly don’t need the extra distraction.
Reblogged this on The Angry Grey Cat Reads and commented:
I can so relate to this!
Totally can relate to this! I reblogged on my blog. People who don’t read can’t really seem to understand that I am choosing to read over talking. :)
It really is a completely different mentality. It was interesting writing this, trying to understand why it’s such a common occurrence… and as nice as it is to see that I’m not alone, I’d kind of like some non-readers to read this and give their side of it. Because they really see US as the rude ones… and it just doesn’t make any sense to me. Thanks for stopping by!
Interesting take. I love reading. I don’t know that I feel interrupted when I am out and about doing it – it happens more at home with my 6yo. But I get it. And appreciate the mentality, for sure! *Found you via a comment on The Bloggess’ page!
I’m sure once I have kids I will be used to getting interrupted… from anything… but for a grown stranger to see I’m occupied and choose to ignore that just irritates me to no end. Thanks for stopping by! (And The Bloggess is hilarious. I don’t read much nonfiction but her book had me literally laughing out loud.)
Great post! My parents are both voracious readers so they aren’t too bad at interrupting.. I probably interrupt my mom more than she does me.. (I’m 28).. in public it all depends on the person and situation I’m in if I mind if someone breaks into my reading to chat with me. If they want to talk to me about books, I’m probably going to be very open about that and won’t mind the chat. If it’s some random crap that has nothing to do with me and they just don’t like the “quiet” then that annoys me.
I’m kind of shy to a point. Over the years I’m more open to random chats with strangers than I used to be, and sometimes I even initiate them – although I’ve never interrupted anyone reading!
April @ My Shelf Confessions
Talking about books is better than a subject I don’t care about, but I still don’t appreciate the interruption. Still… I’m an introvert to the extreme so I recognize that I’m perhaps touchier than even other introverts would be about unnecessary conversations.
This would annoy me so much and you are absolutely right that the other person is being rude. If it was something important or they were asking for help and said excuse me, that’s one thing, but acting like you are doing nothing is just not cool! Luckily I really haven’t had this happen to me too often. Though it did happen to me once on the train which was reallllly bad. This lady next to me would not stop talking and I LOVE travelling by train for the express reason that I can accomplish the task of getting somewhere while also making a huge dent in whatever novel I’m in the middle of.
Yeah, some interruptions are understandable. It’s when someone will start up a conversation simply because they’re bored… there’s no reason for it. How is their need for conversation more important than my need for solitude? (I guess you could turn that around and ask why my need for solitude is more important than their need for conversation… either way, somebody’s unhappy… but I say it’s not the job of other people to be your diversion.)
Hmmm I’m a mixed bag on this. Generally I don’t like to be disturbed, especially if it’s a really good book. I’ve got the tube to work with my housemate a couple of times recently and both times my immediate thought was ‘so I won’t get to read today then huh?’ Although actually I did both times (the tube is no place for conversation).
Having said that I also love the random conversations you can have when a stranger starts chatting to you. Like the time I informed a disbelieving American that actually, we DO make our own TV shows here and that I didn’t learn to talk the way I do, my English accent is because I’m English. Or the time I met an old man who told me lots I didn’t know about the history of my town.
I guess I am a proponent of random conversation so I don’t usually object to being disturbed (the beauty of the book being that it will still be there later when I can read it in peace) but I would never interrupt someone else to start a conversation.
Maybe that’s another reason people don’t see it as interrupting — the book will be there later (in theory… it could be a library book you don’t want to get fines on, or something you’re trying to finish up before book club, or for homework). But thinking my priorities are out of whack still doesn’t give anyone the right to dictate how I spend my time.
For what it’s worth, I understand that by avoiding random conversations I’m missing out on possibilities… but that doesn’t make me any more comfortable about doing it.
Thanks for stopping by!
That’s true it could be and I am absolutely with you on the priorities thing, which is why I would never interrupt a reader, just because I don’t mind being disturbed doesn’t mean I don’t think other people won’t!
To be fair you’re mostly missing out on a lot of weirdos – I seem to get more than my fair share and I view them as a good story to tell later but I know a lot of people are less inclined to see it that way!
It’s an interesting problem though, you do sum up how I tend to feel but mostly I don’t want to offend people which is why I let them chat on at me.
This is seriously one of my biggest pet peeves ever!!! My kids interrupt me. My husband interrupts me. Strangers interrupt me. Drives me crazy!! I don’t try to be rude, but after a while, I think people get the idea that it annoys me. Maybe there needs to be a campaign to stop this annoying behavior! Maybe it would actually make reading more socially acceptable?!? :)
Yes! Readers unite!
This happened to me last night. My boyfriend and I were both reading before bed and he finished before I did. He proceeded to try to talk to me while I was trying to finish the last page and a half of a chapter before also going to bed. I tried not to be rude because I really hate petty arguments but I was a bit annoyed :) Just get ready for bed quietly!
And he had just finished reading himself?! You’d think a fellow reader would understand. I get not wanting to make a big deal of it, but it’s when it happens all the time that it becomes a big deal. Thanks for reading!
It’s so frustrating that reading is seen as an interim activity, something you do between other things. Umm, no, I read rather than doing those other things. I don’t go outside to read for this reason, I hate being interrupted. My extroverted friends hate sitting in a room with me reading, while I recharge they lose all their energy.
When I have done the odd bit of reading outside and I am interrupted I tend to just nod, smile, grunt a reply and carry on reading – it’s so frustrating when I am then seen as rude, they interrupted me!
Yes, exactly. I’m the rude one, and they’re not… it’s mind-boggling. Thanks for reading!
This happens to me fairly rarely, to be honest! Mostly if I’m in public and I’m reading, I’m either on the subway (where nobody speaks to anybody else) or in a coffee shop, and I haven’t been doing the coffee shop thing as much recently. I think I have a somewhat forbidding resting face, so maybe that’s why people don’t generally interrupt me at reading.
It doesn’t actually happen to me too much because I just don’t read in public that much… but just about every time I do, it does. (Except at the library, thankfully… though honestly even that wouldn’t surprise me.) Usually it’s in waiting rooms. Coffee shop, I guess most people are either already with friends or have their own stuff going on. It’s when the other person is bored seems to be the biggest issue. At least that’s when I see it most often.
One of my biggest pet peeve interruptions is, “what are you reading?” If it is a fellow reader who I know is genuinely interested, I may respond, but mostly I just get aggitated. They are obviously trying to make conversation (because they are bored and weren’t smart enough to bring their own form of entertainment) even though they see that I’m busy. I know you don’t care what I’m reading and will not pick up this book on my recommendation! Drives me crazy!
This is a good point. I know a lot of readers who are less likely to get irritated if it’s a conversation about books… but does the person really care, or is it just small talk to them? Reminds me of a story from another blogger (I don’t remember who) when she was young… she was reading at a family party and someone asked what she was reading, so she held the book so he could see the cover and kept reading… her mom explained later that he was just trying to start a conversation and she should have been more polite. The indoctrination starts so young! (Granted, I do think there’s a difference between reading while out by yourself and reading at what is supposed to be a social function… but this just shows how even as kids, we’re taught that it’s an extrovert world and sneaking off for some alone time is “rude.”)
*sigh* Sorry for the mini-rant. Thanks for stopping by!
I am introverted myself and one of the reasons why I always carry a book is so that no matter where I am or what I’m doing I don’t have to make small talk with people. I find small talk to be awkward.
I also think it’s inconsiderate. I don’t interrupt you when you are playing games on your phone, why would you interrupt me when I am reading a book?
Small talk is so awkward. (Though honestly with me, all talk is pretty awkward.) And when did a book stop being the universal “leave me alone” symbol?
I had exactly this happen today. I had to take my car to get some damage assessed, and while I was waiting this woman kept making small talk even after I took out my book and was obviously trying to read. I hate to act anti-social… but ugh, let me read!
That is my worst spot! Waiting for car service is one of the places it happens to me most consistently… I don’t think there’s been a single time that I haven’t been approached while reading there. I wonder if there’s something about that place that makes people more talkative than the waiting room at the dentist or at the eye doctor.
I completely agree! I hate being made to feel like the rude one, when – hey! You’re the one interrupting me! Planes are the riskiest as a reader. I love nothing more than reading on a long flight, but there are some flyers who see a five-hour flight as a perfect opportunity to chit-chat. Forever. I practice defensive reading — book in hand already when I board, open it and stick my nose in the book the second I sit down, maybe look up and nod when my seat-mate boards. Yeah, I know I’m anti-social (introverted shy person at heart) — but I’m reading!! It’s not doing nothing. BTW, I’ve kind of trained my husband and son to recognize that they should politely interrupt me if I’m reading and that need me (“excuse me” or “do you have a sec?”) rather than just start talking at me. This is a great topic! Clearly, something we all feel passionately about!
Yes, when it comes to family interrupting… they have to know how to do it. My husband has learned that if he just starts talking, it’s not even so much a politeness thing, it’s that he’ll just have to repeat himself anyway because I don’t even realize he’s talking until he stops! Thanks for reading!
I love this post.
So many people interrupt when you’re reading, and it’s just plain annoying. I mean, just because you’re not an avid reader, and don’t understand that reading takes concentration, and that you’re pulling me out of my awesome imaginary world, doesn’t mean you can just interrupt me because you think I’m not doing anything.
Reading isn’t just something to do when there’s nothing else around. I choose to read over pretty much everything else. I like reading the best. So don’t push your ‘reading is boring’ opinion on me, and try to talk to me when I am immersed in my pages. I like my pages better than you, anyway (Y).
Ha, yes, that last sentence pretty much sums it up. To be fair, I’ve been interrupted while doing other solo activities too… like playing games on my phone, and in those cases I usually am just killing time, not like being immersed in a book. But I still don’t want to be approached by random strangers. Extroverts really should travel in packs so they will leave us introverts alone!
I have been told by quite a few people that when I am alone, I have a ‘leave me alone’ face on that scares people off, haha. But I still get the brave extrovert who will approach me. I’m always nice, though (even though my previous comment alluded otherwise, haha).
Coming to the conversation a bit late, but this is an interesting topic…and one that, sadly, I can rather relate to! I don’t mind a comment or two from a stranger as long as they get the hint when I stick my nose back into my book (“conversation: over”). When they push it because of their own boredom, I start to get annoyed and want to be left alone, especially if the conversation is all meaningless small talk.
Side note: I was reading while walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans a few years ago, and a guy called out, trying to get my attention, “Hey, baby, what are you reading?” I had chosen the perfect book for the situation, apparently, because all I had to do was hold up the cover: Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading by Maureen Corrigan.
That is the PERFECT book for reading in public! I kind of want to get a copy of that just for the dust jacket! Thanks for reading… and commenting! Comments on older posts are always welcome!
It was a perfect deflection, that’s for sure. Thanks for such a detailed analysis of a problem many readers face!
Awesome, I love this. You pretty much described me in full. In answer to your coping question, I thankfully (when it comes to reading in public) tend to give off a vibe that speaks loudly: “Not interested in speaking to you. If I were, I would stow my book and seek out your company.” Mother Nature gave me a completely natural obliviousness that works quite well in these situations. I don’t attract all that much attention, and I love not needing to be immersed in everyone’s conversations and complications. I’m an introvert and when my fiancé mentions that my own company might not be all there is in the world, I try to politely remind him that this is where I’m most comfortable and I’m not changing for anyone. After all, it’s partly why he fell for me in the first place. I’m NOT just reading, either, I’m living just like everyone else but in a less conventional manner. I’m happy occupying this space and I wish more people would shut up and pick up a book too. I feel this world would be a better place.
I’ve been told I have that vibe myself. I don’t know if some people don’t see it, or choose to ignore it. (And more often than not, it’s someone older… not every time, but usually… not sure what that says.)
Reblogged this on Readage.