Sounds of Silence


after ninety minutes in the Saab dealer service department “customer lounge,” i’m deliriously thankful to be home where the only sound is the clicking of my keyboard. 

there were four other people in this small waiting room, three women about my age, and two gentlemen.  the room itself was quite small as these places go – not much bigger than my kitchen at home, which has barely room for the necessary appliances and a small cafe table.  everyone was decorously seated in the quite utilitarian red plastic chairs placed around the perimeter of the room. 

everyone was reading.

how nice, i thought.  you see, i missed my reading hour this morning, that extra hour i allow myself to loll amongst the pillows with coffee and book.  but i had an appointment that required me to leave the house at an ungodly hour (7:15!), to be followed by my routine car service, where i planned to continue reading Olive Kitteridge, in which i am completely enthralled.

but i didn’t count on the television.  oh yes, that ubiquitous television.  affixed to the wall, high overhead in the corner of the room, with a daytime talk show host introducing today’s guests – wives who felt their husbands were “hotter” than they.

oh dear.

the strange thing was that everyone in the room seemed totally engrossed in their respective reading material.  no one was paying the slightest attention to the screeching audience, the tearful wives, or the scornful tv host.

i sat for about 15 minutes, trying to tune out the din, hoping to re-focus on my current chapter in Olive’s story.  after i’d read the same paragraph several times, not wishing to waste any of Strout’s delicious prose, i noticed the tv remote was lying on small table in the center of the room.

“excuse me,” i ventured, “would anyone mind if i turned that off?”

immediately, a grateful chorus arose. “be my guest!” the gentleman with the Reader’s Digest agreed.  “please do!” said the lady with her copy of the Free Press. “absolutely!” asserted a young woman with Parents magazine.

so i switched off the tv, and a nearly palpable sigh of relief filled the room.  a roomful of readers, all held captive by mindless entertainment, now grateful for a few moments of silence.

then a young woman burst through the door, her polo shirt proclaiming her a service department employee.  she bustled about, putting on a new pot of coffee, and clearing some used paper cups from the counter.

“hey!” she called, “your tv got turned off!”  Grabbing the remote and clicking the “on” button in one deft movement, she breezed cheerily out of the room.
“There you go!” she cried, as happy as if she’d given us each a million dollars.

We peered at one another over the tops of our books and shook our heads.




13 thoughts on “Sounds of Silence

  1. You not only make me smile in memory, but remind me I’m due for a day at the car waiting room soon! I always view waiting ask my guilt-free reading time. Time when whatever book I have in hand isn’t competing with cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, digging in the yard, doing the laundry — you get it.

    So, did the TV get turned down after the cheery lady left?!

  2. I laughed! I hate being subjected to TV in places like that – and oddly, bad as the noise of it is, I find it even more of a nuisance and distraction when it’s picture without sound – the flickering image keeps drawing the eye.

  3. I’ve found that sitting in the salesroom, though not really quiet, is quieter than the waiting room at the dealership where I get my car serviced …. and for some reason the chairs are more comfortable out there. Too often there is one person who has to watch the tv and like you, I cannot abide trying to read with a tv blaring in the background.

  4. I could certainly relate ~ have spent too much time waiting. I am new to the blogging world – and am still searching for blogs I can relate to and feel comfortable with – I enjoy your writing style. Now I must leave so I can finish reading my book!

  5. That made me laugh. It is strange that some people think we need constant visual stimulation. I agree with Imelda though without sound is worse my eye is constantly drawn.

  6. Wonderful post – the experience is almost as bad as sitting on trains with people endlessly jabbering into mobile phones, whilst the majority of passengers is trying to get a bit of reading in…

  7. Oh how true this is. There is even one in my doctor’s waiting room these days and when I’m not feeling well the last things I want is some inane woman nattering away at me. One day my shoe is going to go straight through the screen, I swear it.

  8. I don’t watch TV. I quit about seven years ago (and it was difficult as I was an addict). But I haven’t looked back. But these days you can’t get away from TV — they are everywhere. Lounges, bars, waiting rooms (and in New York City — in the cabs).

    Like you, I can’t read with a TV droning on. It’s too distracting. I find my mind keeps drifting to the TV content. So I could relate to your marvelous story about the waiting room. Good for you — and I hope you turned it off again.

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