Posted 05-14-2004 at 05:31:32
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..and next week's column. An Apology.
...some of you may remember an episode of the old Dick Van Dyke show, where an intercom was left on and a conversation was overheard that was meant to be private, resulting in damage to a years-long relationship between the Petries and the Helpers, their next door neighbors.
That was fiction, a story written to generate laughs and increase ratings. No where in that episode does it give you any indication what to do if a similar situation arises in real life...like it has in my real life recently.
It wasn't an intercom, it was a cell phone inadvertently left on. It wasn't a neighbor or family member that overheard this conversation. It wasn't even really a conversation, but a litany of complaints. None too politely voiced. Punctuated with insults. Insults brought about by anger and sheer frustration. A 'venting of steam', if you will.
So the situation is, a conversation was heard that was not intended to be made public, and certainly not intended for the ears of the subject of the conversation. Ironically enough, that's exactly what happened. I was the one who inadvertently left the cell phone on. My husband and I both engaged in the conversation that was overheard. The subject of the conversation was the one who overheard every word.
Naturally this was a very uncomfortable situation, and the most immediate response was to try to place blame. It was my fault for not hanging up the phone properly. It was my husband's fault for being the most vociferous. It was the subject's fault for listening in on a conversation that was clearly meant to be private.
I don't know about the rest of you, but if I accidentally overheard a conversation about me, I'm not sure if a team of mules would be able to drag me away. I would cling to every vowel and consonant uttered with morbid fascination. I would listen to every single condemning word. I think that that is human nature. To simply hang up the phone, knowing that this conversation was occurring and you had a ring side seat, wondering exactly how bad it was going to get, would require a feat of superhuman strength. It would take a better person than I, to be able to not listen.
By the same token, I think it is also human nature to vent frustrations, and to discuss what we would perceive as the relative lack of intelligence, concern, or consideration, of other people that we walk among daily. You know you do it. We all do it, for it is also human nature to gossip, and to say things about people that we would never dream of saying directly to them.
I know for a fact that there are details discussed between husbands and wives all the time that if overheard, could devastate relationships with people on an infinite level, and I am not naive enough to think that I am not the subject of many of these conversations regularly. The only difference is that I am not privy to those conversations, nor are the majority of us, so we are able to walk about assuming that people we deal with every day regard us as the 'cat's meow'. They would never say anything bad about us. Why would they?
Or would they?
That is the eternal question. What do they really think of me?
Faced with a situation like this, and assuming I was the one who overheard, and tending to give people the benefit of the doubt as I generally do, my question would be...is that what they 'really' think of me.
Well, listener, if you are listening now...no. That is not what we think of you. What you heard was a tantrum of epic proportions. What you heard was a torrid blast of horrible accusations and condemnations brought about by frustration...a deep and chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs. That's Websters definition, not mine. You were a likely and handy scapegoat at the moment.
Every time I think of you overhearing what was said I literally get tears in my eyes. You did not deserve that. I think I can honestly say that I feel much worse about this than you do. You have the advantage of being angry. I am merely left with sorrow. Of the two emotions, yours is more empowering, and I hope you find it within your power... to forgive.