If people are already coming out on a cold winters night to hear a lecture, why dont they listen?
That is what I was thinking that evening as I presented my lecture, one of a series on the topic of medieval Jewish history. Fifteen minutes earlier, two women had walked in (about ten minutes after we had started) and sat down in the back row. That was fine, as all the other seats were filled. What was not fine was that from the minute they sat down they did not stop talking. Its true, they were speaking quietly, and I could not
hear them, but it was nonetheless distracting for me, as the lecturer, to know that they had so little interest in what I had to say that they were not prepared to stop gabbing for one minute!
I pushed these thoughts away so I could concentrate on the
Three-quarters of an hour later I finished. And so, finally, did these two ladies. Gathering
my notes and preparing to leave, I noticed the pair approaching me.
At least they have the decency to come and apologize, I
thought. But their apology was far from the one I expected.
Thank you so much, Professor Frankel. We really enjoyed your talk, one of them said.
I did a double take.
And we learned so much, she added
Come on now. She has to be kidding!
Id like to introduce myself. And this is my sister, she continued. We are sorry we showed up late. We usually try to come early and take seats in the front row. But because of the rain, we had to drive slowly, so we were a few minutes late. You probably did not notice, but as you were speaking, I was repeating what you were saying. My sister is hearing impaired, but she reads lips very well. Thats why the front row, where she can see you, is best for her...
* * *
We may ask, Why dont people explain themselves? If they would, then we would not have to exert ourselves to find merit.
One possibility is that there is no
time, as in the story above.
Even if there had been time, it may not occur to the guilty party that his actions warrant explanation. Especially when
we are absorbed in a worthy pursuit, we are not alert to the fact that our well-meant endeavor could have a second interpretation.
Still another insight is that when we personally have never been on that other side (in this case, at the podium), we are often not
aware of what could be disturbing in that situation. When we are unaware that our behavior is amiss, no explanation or apology can be expected to follow.
Why dont people explain themselves?
Above are just a few of the many possible answers.