A Strange Place to Have This Conversation

Like many urbanites, I live in an apartment in a medium-sized multi-unit building. My particular building has 7 floors and about 46 apartments per floor. This type of living necessitates certain adaptations. For instance, when you open the door to go out, you never know who also might be out in the hall and so one doesn’t tend to open the door when one isn’t dressed.

window view.jpg
View from my window (through the screen) of the South building.

My apartment is also near the elevator. This is both good (when my arms are full of grocery bags) and sometimes annoying (when people return/leave and are loud, particularly late at night). Although I am lucky in that my apartment is fairly sound-proof, so I rarely hear hall noise.


But that is just the life of an apartment dweller. You get used to it.

What I haven’t gotten used to is that some people tend to use the hall to have, what I would consider, private conversations.

Case in point. I open the door yesterday afternoon to take my dog for a walk. There, by the elevator, was a dark haired man, say mid- to late-twenties, in jeans, a tee, and sandals, on his cell phone.

Okay, so far nothing too weird about that. We live in this modern age of cell phones where everyone seems to be on them all the time. No big deal there.

Then I realize he isn’t waiting for the elevator. (The elevator buttons light up when you press one.) He’s just out in the hall talking on his phone.

So still not too weird. Some people like to finish their calls before getting on the elevator because, despite our aforementioned modern age, elevators and parking garages still cause bad connections.

But then he saw me and turned to walk away from me, as if I, entering the public hallway, have invaded his personal space. So of course, that made me notice his conversation:

Well, we have some news. As dad might say, there’s a bun baking.” [pause] “We’re 13 weeks along.

At this point, he’s walked far enough away down the hall that I cannot clearly hear his conversation (which, by the way, was okay with me). I also want to note that his voice and mannerisms did not indicate any joy or excitement. Now that could be for several reasons, such as he has a strained relationship with his parents. But whatever the reason, it stuck me as odd.

hallway conversation
Please forgive my shoddy paintbrush skills.

But even weirder was that he was having this seemingly important and private conversation in the public hallway.

Is it just me? Or isn’t the hallway of the apartment building a strange place to have this conversation?

And isn’t this a conversation you’d want to include your pregnant partner on? It seems to me that many of my couple friends told their parents together. Of course, I’m not married, nor have I ever been pregnant, so I’ve never had the experience of this conversation. Then again, maybe she doesn’t like his parents and that’s why the relationship is strained so much so that he’s having *this* conversation in the hall.

Who knows? And that’s what sparked this entire post. My imagination runs wild dreaming up various scenarios, each one probably more ridiculous and less likely than the next. All because I heard a fragment of a conversation.

What I do know is that people are increasingly having what I would characterize as private conversations in public areas. Maybe our smart phone-social media-anonymous society has diminished the idea of privacy so that people feel that any conversation in any location should be private? Or maybe they simply don’t care who hears?

All I can say is you won’t overhear me having a private conversation.

And I’m not the only one thinking about this. Because with any problem comes a someone with a solution. And clearly the solution is not to go to a private area. No. Instead, this company has built a prototype device that “protects speech privacy in open space environments.” You can read more about the device here.

So apparently the future will see more private conversations in public spaces, but with you looking like some alien from a sci-fi movie. As long as I don’t have to hear about your bun in the oven, the Bane-esque/space alien look okay with me.

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