I have detected a curious obsession lately of loudly talking on the phone or to friends siting a foot away. I was in a coffee shop recently when two ladies decided to ring their friend. Not happy to pass the phone around, they put her on speaker, placed the phone in the middle of the table and had a three way phone party. This was all done at the decibel level of a flock of quite angry cockatoos. Another day saw me with little choice, but to closely follow a couple of business people talking loudly about their work in promotions; expertly trying to out do each other and impress the room, by casually dropping names, as if it made them significant that they knew famous people. Note to promotions people: Giving your seat on the bus to an old lady makes you important; meeting Nick Faldo does not.
The ultimate inappropriate public conversation is a Skype call happening as I write this. Two sisters are engaging in a transpacific moan about their mother – one because Mum won’t come and visit Asia, and the other, because Mum won’t go and visit Asia.
Since when did the public airing of dirty laundry become hip. Do people honestly think indirectly telling a room full of strangers their business is cool? Or are people just that unaware these days?
I have a theory that the more you have to tell people how valuable you are, the more likely it is you’re not. If Sting walked into a local café, I am pretty sure he wouldn’t need to tell folks he’s a rock star (or rock god, according to a friend of mine).
Of course, this throws up another disturbing fact; that I spend way too much time in coffee shops, (or “the office” as I like to call them). Maybe I do, but as a writer, you have little choice as to where to ply your trade. Sitting cross-legged in Zara Men’s, with a laptop on your knee is both inappropriate and to be frank, a little weird. Come to think of it, just being in Zara Men’s at all is a little weird.
In any event, I try to behave appropriately. I neither talk loudly if I am on the phone (sometimes if an editor yells at me, I may cry a little) nor do I bellow at anyone sitting directly with me. It is all done in the reserved understated Hong Kong way. Just like if I am at, say, a rock concert. Polite clapping as the Rolling Stones launch into ‘Satisfaction’ – it’s the way it’s done here… hmmm, come to think of it, maybe we do need a little over the top Perhaps being reserved isn’t such a bright idea. I’ll ponder that some more, but right now, the sisters have an issue as to who comes to what country for Christmas. I think L.A. sister should come to Hong Kong, after all her kids are a bit older, and little Sally has never been overseas to visit Aunt Mary before. Sally’s dog Rex will be Ok – Mr. Samuels next door will happily look after him. Gee, I feel like part of the family.