I'm not sure how to write this story, but I've been dying to get this "napkin" (which isn't really a napkin at all but more like a tiny piece of notebook paper) out of the queue. It is a story from which I haven't been able to glean very much wisdom. Maybe it's a little bit about a "kind-of date." Maybe it's about listening to the elderly.
The story starts in one of my favorite bars in Atlanta. It’s this little two-story beer and wine bar in the Decatur area. It was the Saturday that marks the beginning of college football season, which in Georgia is like the first Easter every time. I was meeting a friend at the Georgia Dome a little later for the Chick-Fil-A Kick-Off Game, which is where this very charming picture to the right was taken (after several drinks).
But this story is about this tiny and loud girl I was having pre-game drinks with in Decatur. We had met at a coffee shop, and she was cute enough, and she seemed smart enough, so I asked her to meet me at this spot for a bit if she was interested, and she was.
Everything was fine, but in this bar, I realized how loud she was, and how much she was talking, and how the subject matter was not for public and definitely not for that volume, which I guess is another way of saying that everything was not "fine," as fine implies no complaints, and I just listed several.
I know that bars are usually loud, and this one was kind of chatty, too. But in reality (which is where we were--smack dab in the middle of reality, actually) the place was actually kind of quiet for a bar. There was no loud band or DJ playing. There was only her talking over the rumble of other conversations. Oh, and we weren’t at our own table, which would have at least given the visual of privacy. We were sitting at the actual bar with people on either side of us and bartenders rustling about making drinks.
She was telling some story about her family. It would seem she didn’t have a great life growing up, and that’s not something to judge her over. We all have demons, right? But there is a reason that the Catholics hold confession in an anonymous chamber at low volumes. She could have been holding a megaphone at a pep rally and she wouldn’t have been any louder than she was on that bar stool. The subject matter is only important in that it was pretty heavy for a casual happy hour. Aside from that, the volume is really all that matters.
So, you know when you’re in an awkward situation with a person who is screaming the intimate details of their life at you in a public place? I’m not so sure about everyone else, but my eyes begin to dart around the room. “Who else is hearing this?” I ask myself. If I make eye contact with anyone, I give a nervous smile or hopeless eyebrow shrug.
My eyes scanned the room on that day in Decatur, too, and I realized that the older couple to my back (as I was turned toward her) was chuckling a bit and cutting eyes in my direction.
They cashed out and took off pretty soon after I noticed them, and as they left, they dropped a little note on the bar. When I saw the note, I wasn’t sure it was for me, but the bartender affirmed that is was. The note said, “She’s cute, but…FLEE!!! RUN AWAY!!!! Escape while you can!!!” If you were counting, that is TEN exclamation points...and a lot of capital letters and underlining. The urgency was clear.
I felt a little bad about the whole thing until I realized what they probably meant and why they probably wanted me to flee. It was something that they saw in her loud confessional that I didn’t quite see. She was impulsive and loudly passive aggressive. She would rather talk-yell about someone or something instead of actually talking to the person in an attempt to address the issue in any kind of upfront manner.
So when she thought we were much more serious than I did, and when she realized that I thought we were less serious than she did, she raised her voice to everyone who would listen, but she never talked to me. That couple (specifically the lady, who I am pretty sure wrote the note) knew, on some level, what was coming. They recognized the symptoms.
Look, we all raise our voices at inappropriate times. And sometimes when we should be loud, we aren’t loud enough.
I'm sure this is one of those stories that should teach me something more than a lesson on appropriate volumes and social behaviors. Maybe the lesson is to "listen to your elders" or "ignore the yelling."
Or maybe the lesson is that when someone yells, they need you to listen, but not necessarily to the words.
There was pain there, but all I could hear was volume.