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?