I spent some time in a doctor's office waiting room today waiting for my husband. During much of my hour-and-a-half there, the room was very crowded with strangers. I had brought my Kindle and was trying to read Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. It's a novel of manners about the way people treat each other and about their expectations of each other. It reminds me somewhat of Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series. It has the same gentle, meandering feel to it.
Anyway, I was trying to concentrate on my book, but at some point, it just became impossible. On the opposite side of the room from me several rather elderly - that is to say older than me - people were seated, and, as always seems to happen in these circumstances, one of them, a woman, had a loud and abrasive voice and manner and she insisted on telling the others her life story and especially her medical history. A couple of other people there entered eagerly into the spirit of the occasion and regaled the listeners, as well as those of us who were desperately trying not to listen, with stories of their own bad health. Then the loud 70-year-old (I know her age because, of course, she proclaimed it) woman with the orange hair started in on the president.
The country is going to hell in a handbasket under his leadership, she asserted, and the latest indication of that is the McChrystal incident. She went on and on for several minutes about what a fool Obama is and how wise McChrystal was to maneuver the president into a position where he had to fire him. She never really explained why it was wise of McChrystal to sabotage his own career in this manner, but then she made the statement that really floored me. She said her husband had told her that she shouldn't talk like this in public, but she had no qualms because she knew that everybody in the room agreed with her. My jaw dropped along with a few others in the room as we all stared at this completely tone-deaf and clueless woman.
What compels such people to behave like this? Are they really so convinced that a whole room full of strangers is completely fascinated by the intimate details of their lives and medical histories? And why must they inflict their political opinions on innocent bystanders? Is it because they honestly do believe that everybody agrees with them and that they are among friends? Whatever the reasons, the behavior is incredibly rude and one is strongly tempted to be equally rude in contradicting her opinions. What stops one from doing so is the certain knowledge that Major Pettigrew would not approve. In fact, he would be appalled.
Eventually, the annoying woman's audience left her as, one by one, they were called back to the treatment rooms and, with no one to listen to her, she wandered away to join her husband in his treatment room. There was an audible sigh of relief from those who were left in the waiting room as she removed herself and her opinions, and with enormous gratitude, I opened my Kindle and resumed reading.