Saturday, December 10, 2011

Something I realized today

This is something I've probably "known" for a while, but the events of today made me explicitly realize it:

There is a point at which I have reached my limit of tolerance of being crowded in with other people, and I just need to go off and be alone.

Today was graduation. They always tell us "be present at 9:30 to line up," which I interpret as "You need to be there at 9:20" - I was always taught growing up that the given meeting time was the absolute last minute, and you should really be there five to ten minutes earlier. The problem is, they tell up "Be there at 9:30" because many of the faculty take that to mean "Walk in the door at 9:55."

So I spent a lot of time waiting in a small stuffy windowless room with other early bird faculty.

Then we were lined up out in a hall. Stood there for some 15 minutes waiting on latecomers.

Then we finally filed in. We aren't lined up by department (though I really think we SHOULD be; I think that would be neater). I did wind up next to a colleague of mine, and he wound up next to some guy he knew from History.

Who then proceeded to launch into a sotto voce airing of every grievance he had, with the university, with his students, with the American people, with the world in general. All through the graduation. (Well, okay...he was quiet during the invocation and the speech by the speaker. But once students started filing across the stage....)

I don't know. Maybe I'm being excessively old-school in this but I think one should not carry on an extended conversation at an event like that. I sat there trying not to listen as the guy rehashed the details of Cain's alleged affair (Look, dude: the guy's out of the race, he's probably damaged his marriage seriously and ruined a lot of his credibility, can you just leave him alone and stop snarking?)

Also, some of the faculty were playing with their smartphones during the ceremony. I expect we will receive an e-mail asking us not to do that in the future. And as much as I don't like the nannying administrative e-mails, really - I DO think it's rude to be playing on a smartphone during a graduation, especially down on the floor where people in the stands can see you. (We're required to be there, unless we have a good reason. I suppose playing with a smartphone is an act of rebellion of people somewhere they do not want to be, or something. I know I've seen some of my, shall we say, less-engaged students do it in class).

I don't know. Have we as a culture lost the ability to sit quietly and at least LOOK attentive even if we're not that interested? I did listen closely during my school's graduation, a lot of people I knew were going through, and even in the other schools, there were a few familiar names - kids I had had in my non-majors class, and one person who received a scholarship I served on the selection committee for.

And there were the predictable air horns. I really do not like air horns at an indoor graduation. They hurt my ears. I understand the idea of rejoicing and celebrating, but still, they hurt my ears.

Eventually the ceremony ended, we all filed out during the recessional. There's always a reception with finger foods afterward but at that point I realized I was just SO DONE with being around people. I felt like I could not face another minute of being in a darkish cramped room with lots of people and the din of their talking (one thing about my hearing - or about my listening, perhaps: I have a really hard time following the thread of a conversation if there are others going on around me, so I usually stand silent and confused in those kinds of situations, because I have a hard time tuning out the extraneous conversations).

My colleague looked at me: "Aren't you going to the reception?"

"No," I answered. "I have a slight headache." (It was true - between the constant barrage of whispered griping and the air horns, and having stood for some 30 minutes in an overheated cramped room that smelled of the dusty velvet and unwashed gabardine of the academic robes, I did). But really, at that minute, the thing I wanted the most in the whole world was to go home, put my car away, go in my house, lock he front door, and not talk to anyone (or have to listen to anyone) for the rest of the day.

I've noticed before that I get distressed when I have to be around crowds of people I don't know well for too long; this was just the most marked case of it I remember. I suppose this is related to my living alone: probably a lot of people who choose to live alone do so because they are like that, they need times when they can just lock out the rest of the world and be surrounded by quiet. Or maybe, living alone decreases our tolerance for human noise and crankiness and crowding, I don't know.

At any rate, I was really grateful to walk into my empty quiet house and close the door behind me this afternoon.

1 comment:

Kate P said...

Isn't that introversion, though--to have a limited amount of tolerance for such things, and then need to retreat to "recharge your batteries"? I find it's true for me.