Monday, July 15, 2013

My Biggest Reading Pet Peeve, Ever, In The World, For All Time.

Readers, the diatribe I'm about to launch into is not a new topic for literature lovers.  However, since I've never mentioned it here at the Well-Read Redhead, and because I've had a recent run-in with this problem, I felt it was vital to put it up for discussion.

WHAT...THE...HELL is the deal with strangers who want to talk to me while I'm reading in public?

Most recent example:

Last week I went outside to enjoy some reading during my lunch break.  Generally, my reading spot at work is inside this big gazebo in one of our courtyards.  It's perfect because it's always shady, has benches to stretch out on, and is hidden from a lot of the nearby buildings by bushes and flowers.  The perfect private reading alcove.  (I may or may not refer to it as "MY Gazebo" in my head.  I'm a little possessive.)

Anyway, in all the times I've sat there to read, I've always had My Gazebo to myself.  However, last week as I was reading, another woman (who I had never met) came into My Gazebo with her lunch to eat.  Okay, no problem.  I look up, we exchange "Hi"s, she grabs the bench on the other side, and I go back to my book.  She reaches into her lunch bag and starts munching away.  We are peacefully co-existing.

Until.

She looks up at me and says, "I'm glad I found this place to eat.  The student union is crazy today."

And I'm like...

But okay.  I nod and say, "Yeah, busy time of the summer in there," and...go back to my book.

BUT OH NO.  She continues.  "Beautiful day.  So glad the humidity went down.  Hasn't it been awful lately?"

"Yup."  (Back to reading.)

"I hope it stays like this.  I'm taking vacation next week and it would be great if we had more weather like today's."
and
and
Luckily, after my lukewarm response to that, she ate the rest of her lunch in silence and moved out of My Gazebo about 10 minutes later.

The non-readers out there might think I'm being bitchy or antisocial.  But let me just lay it out for you: if someone is reading in public, they do not want to be disturbed by someone they don't know unless that person has something of terrific importance to say.  This would include things like:

-"Excuse me miss, but there is a bomb under your seat."  (You should verify first that it's a real bomb and thus a real threat.)

-"It appears that that plane in the sky is about to crash on or near your person."

-"Derek Jeter just walked into the room and intends to propose marriage to you."  (insert childhood celebrity crush of your choice)

-"Oh Em Gee, I read that book and LOVED it!  Let's discuss!"

I'm sad to say that I've had interruptions like the one above countless times.  On commuter trains, in libraries (LIBRARIES!!), at a coffee shop, you name it.  Don't get me wrong, people--I'm social.  I strike up conversations in elevators and grocery stores and wherever.  And of course if a friend were to interrupt me while reading, I would welcome it.  But I'm not looking to make new friends when I have a book in my hand.  JUST NO.

The moral of my story is this: the next time you want to interrupt a stranger who is happily ensconced in a book, because you have nothing to do and figure this is a great time to discuss last night's So You Think You Can Dance, pull out your iPhone.  Or plan your grocery list.  Or doodle on a napkin.  Just don't do THAT.

What say you, readers?  Am I too touchy?  Do you have other reading pet peeves that take precedence over this one?  Or is this a problem of yours as well?

53 comments:

  1. Ha! This is the best. Didn't books used to be the universal symbol for "LEAVE ME ALONE"? Are kids not being taught that in school these days? The only exception I will make is if someone makes interesting conversation about the book I'm reading...otherwise, GET OUT.

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    1. There really should be a lesson (or many lessons) in elementary school about this. And yes, I agree, interrupting to discuss the book you're reading is TOTALLY acceptable.

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  2. WHY DO PEOPLE DO THAT?! Do you not SEE that I'm BUSY? Gah! I don't know what it is about reading a book that makes people think we're not doing something!

    I'm social too, to my kids' embarrassment. I chat up the check out gal at the grocery story, etc. But sweet Moses. If I see someone reading I know that they are BUSY. Their mind is somewhere ELSE and they don't want to engage in meaningless small talk with a stranger.

    So yea, I feel your pain. WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!

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    1. We need an action committee or something. We should take this cause to the White House. WE READERS DEMAND RESPECT! :)

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  3. Part of me agrees with you in principle and then another part of me says "No," but not "Hell no", just a quiet "no." That part is the one that thinks you might be missing on an opportunity to get to know someone, plus you don't know what kind of day that person is having either in that maybe the person just needs a bit of conversation, BUT I am in the minority, I know, when it comes to having to carve out reading time for one's self. I work at a part-time job (at a library, no less) and I have free time to read, such as today and even tomorrow (taking a vacation day). I agree with Shannon, though, that an exception can be made if the person is talking about the book or books in general. Then I wouldn't mind.

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    1. You make a good point re: it's dependent on how much reading time you have in total. Because my work/home life are so busy (and don't allow for a lot of natural reading time), the time I DO get is very very precious to me. I assume the same could be said for a lot of people who read during commutes, lunch breaks, etc.
      And yes, I can always be interrupted to discuss the book in question! :)

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    2. By the way, I did want to mention I love your use of gifs. You and Jennifer Hartling are so inspiring in that regard. :)

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    3. Oh I must say, everything I know, I learned from Jennifer! :)

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  4. Haha! This is amazing, and very very true. If I am reading in public and someone comes over to me to talk about a non-book related topic they'll be lucky if I don't reenact a war scene from Game of Thrones.

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    1. LOL I know it. I patted myself on the back for being rather polite this time. :)

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  5. Agree 100%. I don't know why people feel the need to fill silence when the other person is obviously giving a reason for it to exsist. Really, the most acceptable interruption would be to discuss the book, books, or reading in general (assuming life and death situations are unlikely).

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    1. I think that's part of it, people who want to fill a silence...but they don't realize that there is a whole world going on in the reader's head! :)

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  6. Exactly. EXACTLY. If I'm reading, leave me alone. I generally have enough of a do not talk to me vibe going on that people leave me alone (blame it on one too many years living in Boston), but there are a few that don't take the hint.

    Childhood Crush (and, honestly, adult crush too): Joseph Gordon Levitt

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    1. I LOL'd at your comment about Boston. I am a native New Englander, now I live in New York, and neither of those regions are especially known for their welcoming personalities...haha.
      Re: Joseph Gordon Levitt: did not see the attraction when I was younger, but completely agree with the adult version!

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  7. I probably don't read enough in public to feel the wrath of this fully, but if someone was reading I would never strike up a conversation with them knowing that if they are reading on a plane/train/lunch break/library they are probably really engrossed in their book (aka why they are reading in public). People need to be more perceptive nowadays as they are clearly not getting the "I don't want to talk to you" signals very well.

    Has anyone had a person talk about a book you are reading and then spoil the ending? Yea happened to me once and I wanted to roundhouse kick them in the face Chuck Norris style. RUDE.

    Totally off subject but regarding pet peeves. My current pet peeve at the moment is when another driver does something stupid/wrong yet gets mad at me or is yelling from their car or hand signals to state I am in the wrong--it drives me bonkers. Like I wish I had their cell phone so we could discuss they were in the wrong or follow them to a red light to argue my case they were in the wrong. It bothers me they think they were in the wrong and then on top of that pet peeve bothers me that it never gets resolved who was in the right. GAH! Okay vent over.

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    1. Ughhhh giving away spoilers is probably a #2 peeve. The worst is when a spoiler is actually IN a book's description (something I think I've discussed here before). Even if the ending isn't given away, I still don't want a full recap of all the big twists before I even start reading!!!
      And LOL at your rant about drivers. I can totally see you following someone so that you could talk out the whole situation afterwards...hahaha.

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    2. spoilers in a book's description??? why would they even do that??? If I can read a book jacket and know the ending then there is a serious problem! And yes I have thought about following a couple of times but thought better of it! hahaha.

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  8. Not too touchy, not at all. I don't understand how (not among readers but in general) it's the reader who's considered the rude one in this situation, not the person who's doing the interrupting.

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    1. Agreed. And socially-conscious me does feel the burden of that rudeness at times, though I always try to remind myself that I was the one who got interrupted...

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  9. Amen sister. I was reading in our break room today, which I don't usually do, but I actually wanted to accomplish reading 50+ pages, and I can't do that if I'm within 10 feet of my office computer. Anyway, one of my colleagues came in and was getting her lunch together and actually held out and did not interrup until the latter half of her break room time. Better than I expected. Not perfect, but baby steps.

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    1. I can't even attempt to use the break room for reading activities...thank goodness for an office door that shuts! :)

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    2. I remember reading in the break room. Most people didn't say anything about it, or just quickly asked if my book was good, then left me to it. What pissed me off though, is one of my coworkers was all incredulous because I brought a book to read during break. Like teasing people for being a "nerd" is even cool anymore. I raised my eyebrows...and kept reading.

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  10. When I first started reading your post I thought you were annoyed at people who wanted to chat about the book you're reading. NO you aren't being too sensitive, what you describe is annoying! At the very least, you going back to your book should have been a clue that you were there for some alone time! Ugh.

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    1. Nope, definitely never annoyed with literary chatter--I will stop for that, for sure. Anything else, no way. ;)

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  11. Love your list! I read another post on similar lines a few weeks ago and it's weird because I totally understand it, but barring my family have never experienced it myself. Is there a specific kind of book you have to be reading that says 'hey, you can talk to me, this book isn't important?"... In these cases it's hopefully obvious that the reader isn't being rude, instead just wanting to chill out with the book. But I know the people who start the conversation probably don't see it that way.

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    1. I am happy that you've never had to experience this annoyance! I'd say family/friend interruptions don't count. It's really just the out-of-the-blue stranger ones that bug me.

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  12. No, you're not being a beyotch. I'm introvert central and more so when reading. DON'T. TALK. TO. ME. Unless it's you, of course, and then I would love to chat about what we're reading!

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  13. Agreed; unless you have something interesting to say about the book I'm reading (or warning me about a bomb, like you said, haha), leave me the hell alone! I'm clearly not interested in having a conversation. I usually listen to music while reading in public, though, and combining headphones with a book sends out a pretty successful "leave me alone" vibe. LOVE this post.

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    1. Ooooh I love the headphone idea!! I will stick some in my ears without anything playing, just to give the impression that I can't hear anything. GENIUS.

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  14. I agree with you to a degree. While Bryan makes a good point, who knows the woman could become your boss tomorrow or your BFF and a few minutes of niceties could be worthwhile. The lukewarm response from you should have been her sign.

    I am guilty of talking to people reading cause I really want know about the book and they are just a means to my bookblogging obsessed end. i think a younger guy (in his 20's) thought i was checking him out today at the pool cause he was holding his book's cover down and I could not see what it was. There were 3 people reading at the pool today and I was jealous but had a great time with my kiddos instead. I am very used to being interrupted when I read but it makes me no less grumpy unless someone wants to talk about the book.

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    1. Talking about the book I'm reading really doesn't bother me, I guess because it doesn't take me completely out of the book world. :) I too am a "book stalker" in public...I love to see what others are reading and will interrupt to ask them about it, if they seem open to it. It's just the non-book interruptions that grate on me...though I will keep in mind, as you said, that I could be shutting down a future boss!! :)

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  15. This is something that drives me insane!!!!! It happens at the pool ALL the time! I'm getting frustrated because I love reading at the pool, but I'm dreading going because people won't shut up even when I try to read there!!!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

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    1. Oh yes, pool and beach are two top locations I think. ANNOYING.

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  16. Even worse than this is when *family members* want to talk to you while you're reading a book! I really try to be respectful when we're in social settings and I rarely pull out my book even if we're all just relaxing on the porch at the lakehouse, BUT if I do pull out my book, it's not because I all of a sudden want to talk to you! It's because I want to read! Ugh.

    Although...sometimes when I see strangers reading it takes every ounce of self-will not to ask them what they're reading.

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    1. Usually I make exceptions for family members, but I'd say the one time it annoys me is when we are all sitting around watching TV, I pull out a book, and then I get constantly interrupted. If I don't like the TV show being watched I don't see why I need to be pulled into the conversation about it. lol.

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  17. I really don't think I could love a blog post more! I come across this issue far too often, and it's one of my biggest rant session topics to my guy. During my lunch breaks at work, I go off campus because our college is limited on quiet spaces even for the students. I go to a local park to read, and even though I stay baking inside my car - people actually interrupt me. Whether it's the person walking to a trail by my car and feeling the need to chat for a few minutes about the weather, or it's someone who pulls into the parking space next to me, clearly sees I am parked off by myself in a shady spot with my book in full vision, and they proceed to shut off their car, but blast the radio. Really? It seems so rude! I always just smile to someone in passing when they're reading a book and then promptly pat myself on the back for not nerding out with questions or interrupting their enjoyment.

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    1. Wowww that sucks that people won't leave you alone even in your CAR!! Not sure how you could get more "leave me alone" than that. I understand your pain about quiet spaces on campus, I contend with that as well, and if I were to read in a more public area (a bench, in the quad, etc) I would certainly get stopped by a million students in 30 minutes. That's why I possessively guard my gazebo time. Haha.

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  18. Agree! I don't usually have the nerve to send off as many shut-up signals as you, though, and would usuall end up spending my break making incredibly boring conversation and being the one to leave the gazebo first. Good for you!

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    1. Haha, thanks! I am generally a pretty social/friendly person, but I suppose this is the one time I make an exception. :)

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  19. I totally understand. Like you, I'll talk to anyone. Anywhere. But NOT if they are reading. Unless, of course, I read the book and want to say, OH EM GEE. But that's never actually happened to me, so I can't say that I would do it with certainty.

    I find that more people interrupt me when I am on my ereader than if I'm holding an actual book. Maybe this is because they can't see what I'm reading and assume it's trash or not important. Not that ANY book that I read is unimportant, but still....

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    1. Good point about the reader. I keep mine in a case, so people might not be able to see that I'm reading (vs playing on an iPad or something). Will have to keep that in mind...

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  20. Oh my goodness, I love this. It's never actually happened to me (I get car sick so I can't read in cars/trains/planes. I am lame and do almost all my reading at home). But seriously, who are these people? I think the closest I've ever come to that was asking a random lady how she liked the book she was reading, because it was one I wanted to read. And then I promptly left her the heck alone! :)

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    1. Oh man...not being able to read in a vehicle has to be HARD!! I think it's totally OK that you asked her about the book...especially because you didn't linger afterwards. :)

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  21. Ugh, I hate it when people do this. It's like they assume that the only reason you're reading is that you have nothing better to do with your time, and you're desperately waiting for some kind of human interaction. Well, that's not true at all. If you keep your answers short like you did, that person is more likely to GO AWAY. I also love talking to people, but not when I am trying to read. :/ (Unless they want to talk about the book).

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    1. Agreed! Why do people see reading as a time-waster activity?? I will never understand that...

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  22. This is hilarious! I can totally relate to that, and it's usually my family that interrupts me. Of course when that happens, I don't have to mask my irritation because you know.. they're my family. But does that make them stop? OH NO! They keep going and going and going and distracting me. And it's usually within the last few pages when I am trying to really get in the zone because some important stuff are happening in the book.

    The exception you listed are hilarious. And I think the only time I might interrupt a reader is if I've read the same book they're reading (although that has never happened to me) but then again I'll keep it short. Oh, and a little confession? Since I can't resist a book stand, sometimes I walk over there without even intending to buy something, and if someone is looking for a book, I start suggesting titles, since the bookseller is in most cases clueless. But that doesn't count as interruption, right? They're not actually reading a book ;)

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    1. Totally does not count as an interruption. If anything, they should be thanking you!! :)

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  23. Ha ha! This is so true. It has happened to me on the train, even once in the QUIET CAR! Ugh!

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  24. LOL I usually don't comment but this post is HILARIOUS!!!
    I've had this happen to me lots of times and I get so very annoyed while internally I express everyone of those gifs you posted. Definitely feel yo pain gurl ;)

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    1. LOL glad you sympathized!! I should form a support group...

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