The other day, in a medical waiting room, while I was waiting for the other person who lives at our house to come back out among the living, I discovered something kind of important: There are two kinds of people in the world — those who prefer to keep their phone conversations to themselves and that segment (which seems like a huge majority of people) who don't care if you hear everything they have to say and are perfectly willing to blare it all over creation.
"Yeah, I'm at the doctor's office, waiting for Meredith to get a checkup! She's got some kind of growth down there in her, you know, lady parts! But we won't know for sure until she gets a scan! Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah! Tell me about it!"
What I've noticed is that these kind of people really do seem to think everybody else is probably fascinated to hear about their lives — almost proud to broadcast it, in fact.
You hear the same kind of high-volume sharing in restaurants, on buses and planes, in theater lobbies and pretty much everywhere else they allow stupid people to congregate with their mobile phones — which, in the United States, is just about everywhere.
On behalf of the rest of us — those who scurry for an exit as soon as the phone goes off, and who also hush their voices to a whisper (even out in the alley, on a balcony, or up on a roof, wherever their mad escape takes them) — I'd like to point out that some of us would rather eat dirt than let the general public hear our private conversations.
We also don't especially want the general public to see us naked, uncoiffed, messed up or in any other way in a state that we deem not ready to be observed by the rest of the world.
That, I think, is one of the reasons the idea of blabbing all the mundane details of our lives for anyone to hear strikes us as grotesque.
Is yapping at the top of your voice around other people, after all, really that different than those people who wear pajamas in public, have obscenities tattooed on their face or who find it perfectly OK to drink whiskey from a bottle in a paper bag?
We're supposed to be civilized, people! Start acting like it, for pete's sake!
The other day we were walking down that lovely trail that runs by Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego (along Stafford and Rosemont roads) when we met a young woman walking along talking to somebody on a Bluetooth phone. She was by herself, but she was talking in that same voice you'd use if you were addressing a gymnasium full of high school kids and you didn't have a microphone.
I know you'd never believe it, but I was raised by mild-mannered Presbyterians who considered being overheard (or even noticed, for that matter) practically a criminal offense. It is my people who shush the rest of you for talking in theaters or funerals or even any musical venue that does not have a mosh pit.
It's one of the reasons I fit in so well in the U.S. Navy. All you had to do to excel in the military was not stick out. You had to march in step with the rest of the company (meaning, when everybody else was going up on their toes, you should not be coming down) and, perhaps more than any other skill, you had to keep your mouth shut.
It's also probably what drew me to a career in writing. Instead of standing around talking about how smart I am or would eventually be (in journalism school, we called these guys broadcasting majors), my kind of people prefer to sit in a corner and type and edit and revise and polish until we have created the illusion that maybe we are a big deal after all.
My kind of people would rather text than talk on the phone.
My specialty as a young person was writing killer letters that convinced girls I was smart, charming and clever. Then, when they were confronted with me in person, they'd quickly discover I was none of those things.
He's not on the air anymore, but I used to relate in a serious way with Garrison Keillor, who peppered his show, "The Prairie Home Companion," with references to Norwegian bachelor farmers, humble Midwesterners and so on. He also was a pretty fair writer, which I also found inspiring.
The other person who lives at our house insists I'm "full of that Irish blarney," but even she knows it doesn't just bubble out of me, like it appears to with great public speakers, talk show hosts and standup comedians. She and I both know it takes me forever to come up with a line that's even good enough to even get a smile, let alone a belly laugh.
Think I'm full of it? Fine, just don't call me to talk about it. I'd much rather get a text.
Mikel Kelly is the former editor of The Times.