This morning, I was in line at my neighborhood bakery, and the woman behind me recognized the woman in front of me as her friend. Thus began a long and animated conversation, in which I was a silent, uninvited, and slightly annoyed participant. (Thankfully, the chocolate almond croissant I bought was more than worth it.)

This reminded me of a dynamic from high school that I had forgotten until now. When I was a sophomore, I was in concert band (I opted out of the whole Marching Band thing, which was a huge commitment involving uniforms and competitions and, you know, marching). I’d played the flute for a few years, and ended up as second chair, which meant I was second only to the first chair in my flautatiousness, a word I just made up. Being second chair would have been an achievement worth savoring, were it not for the fact that the girl in first chair, who I’ll call Caitlin, was best friends with the girl in third chair, who I’ll call Jessica. These girls were juniors, and they were very pretty and popular. And they spent the entire band period talking across me. I got to hear about their boyfriends and shopping trips and vacation plans and parties, all because I happened to be inhabiting the space between them. And it wasn’t as if my presence was frustrating for Caitlin and Jessica; worse (for me, at least), they chatted away, leaning across me to whisper to each other as if I wasn’t even there. Eventually, I got tired of the whole thing, and started forging passes to get me out of band, so I could hang out in the auditorium with the drama nerds (a term I use with wholehearted affection).

Though the assigned seating of concert band rendered my situation hopeless, short of my own illegal extrication, I think there’s an easy solution to most cross-talking scenarios. In the case of my bakery experience, I think the woman in front of me should have stepped in behind me, so she could carry on the convo with her friend more directly, and without my involuntary participation.

What do you think? Have you ever been cross-talked? Do you have a better solution?

5 thoughts on “Cross-Talkers

  1. I would agree she should have move back in line. One way to avoid these situations is to interject into their conversation. Just latch onto a point and go with it. They’ll hopefully then decide to no longer talk across you, of course there is one downside…they could now include you completely in the conversation.

  2. No cross-talking episodes or solutions come to mind, but you sure have taken me back to middle school band and my second chair trumpet days. I like how you never considered being less flautatious come assessments for chair position, and instead resorted to a life of crime and dramanerdery.

    Your photo, as well, has called to mind more recent traumas: my once peaceable neighbors have had their adult grandchildren move in with them (who, in turn, have three infants/toddlers) along with two beastly tiny nonstop barking dogs I am convinced are, in fact, baby chupacabras. Despite using ear plugs AND noise reduction headphones, I must do everything accompanied by a symphony of barks.

    You have me thinking about the problem differently now: perhaps they are cross-talking to the dog two houses over?

  3. My default position is crime/dramanerdery.

    Several years ago, we had Thanksgiving here for the first time, and my grandfather was sitting by the front window. Across the street, the neighbors’ dog was barking, a sound my husband and I had grown used to. After the barking went on for about a minute, my grandfather said,

    “If I lived here, that dog would be dead by now.”

    • Ha! Sounds like a twist on the famous L.A. freeway billboards, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now.” Apparently, crime as a default position runs in the family? I think I endorse it!

      I will say, murder has crossed the mind of this animal-lover, as well. Instead, I read this Billy Collins poem to feel less alone with my suffering: “Another Reason I Don’t Have a Gun in the House.”:

      I’m very stuck on “a sound my husband and I had grown used to.” This seems impossible, but I will have faith…

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