Saturday, April 9, 2011


A few minutes ago, I was sitting outside my apartment reading a book and enjoying the evening. Two women and several children walked by. The children were happily chattering. Upon seeing me, one of the women said to the children, "Be quiet, he is trying to read."

I am wondering why she did this. I was certainly not annoyed or upset by the children, and I hope that I did not look as if I was. Maybe she was trying to teach them manners, but there is no system of morality of etiquette I know of that requires people on a street in the early evening to be quiet. It is a public space, and I should not have any expectation of silence or privacy. If I wanted quiet, I would go in my apartment and shut the door.

It is possible that she just wanted them to be quiet and was using my presence as an excuse to demand silence. But either way, the lesson was wrong. They should not be asked to alter their normal behavior in a public space just because someone else is quietly sitting there.

I do not remember people being so deferential to me in the past. This is not an isolated incident. It seems that people greet me and hold doors open for me much more than they used to. It is somewhat disconcerting. I know that I have become more social and self-confident in the last few years, as well as more physically fit. It seems that this has made me more intimidating. Perhaps people subconsciously see me as a higher-status person who should be given more respect.

In recent years, I have become aware that a great deal of human behavior is determined by emotion and instinct rather than logic and the rules of society. Maybe I am imagining things here, and instinct had nothing to do with that woman telling the children to defer to me. I would like to know why she said that, but I never will.

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