Yesterday I was reminded why I quit the lecture circuit. I really enjoyed speaking to guilds and groups for the years I did it; until I didn’t. I remember exactly what group I spoke to when I decided to stop. I told people I was no longer giving lectures because of the wear & tear on my body. In reality it was the wear & tear on my nerves that did me in.
I was reminded yesterday as I bore witness to what happened to me, happening to another speaker. I was present to hear a 90 min lecture on trash & recycling, given by an employee of the garbage hauler. Her job is to educate communities and companies about sorting their trash, compost & recycling, to ease the demand on the public landfill, which is filling at an alarming rate.
The landfill was rapidly filling before the rash of wildfires and floods, where hundreds of homes were destroyed; and their contents dumped there. Since I have become obsessed with plastic in our oceans and on our beaches, I wanted to hear what this woman had to say.
She started by saying she would take questions after her presentation. She had not said two sentences when someone interrupted her with a question, then another, then another, then side conversations. She reminded the group of seniors that she would take questions after the presentation. She started in again. A guy interrupted asking if she really thought anyone was going to read this brochure of garbage policies? Then continued to rail her about how stupid it is for a corporation making millions of dollars to hope that educating people about garbage is just that, garbage.
And what about the Mexicans, another woman shouted. They don’t sort their trash, she said, adding she was not racist.
The speaker continued, slightly rattled. Another interruption, and another, and another. One woman pointed out that she could improve her presentation with a handout, to which the speaker told the woman she was holding the handout! It just went on and on and on.
I found myself getting upset by all the interruptions, and also by the speaker, unable to ‘control’ the room. My thoughts migrated from trash talk to anger over the lack of civility in the room. Perhaps a whip and a chair was necessary?
What really annoyed me was how do two generations (the “greatest” and the boomers) who were raised to be so friggin’ polite, courteous and considerate behave like a bunch of spoiled children in a public forum? Since when has a lecture become a public discussion group? A lot of the questions people peppered the speaker with were answered in her presentation, had they only listened.
Some might blame our current administration, which granted has done nothing to encourage public civility. But my last lecture was 7 years ago when this behavior first began to annoy me.
The last time I gave a lecture was in a college town to a group of quilters about photo editing. Everyone in the room was an expert on the subject and they interrupted me constantly. I began to question why they even came to hear me when they were all experts? I decided right there at the podium, that I was never going to do this again. And I blamed it predominantly on this being a college environment. Little did I know…
Yesterday I learned it is not just the millennials, it is pervasive in our society. Perhaps the old folks have lost their ability to communicate as much as the kids never learned it in the first place. We have lost our ability to communicate with civility. What a sad situation.
The conclusion I came to from yesterday’s meeting is I will continue to conserve, recycle and use as little plastic as possible. I will not become an activist though. It just makes me too angry. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days arguing in public with people who just don’t listen.
I’d rather go into a quiet room, turn on some music and make art.