Should You Expect Privacy in Public Spaces? #MondayMusings

Picture this…

After a tiring day at work with a splitting headache, you board the evening train to go back home, to find your elderly co-passenger listening to some bhajans on his phone at a decent volume. You look at the phone and will it to stop, but alas it keeps playing mata ke bhajans with the same gusto. You are tempted to ask the ‘Uncle ji’ to lower the volume or use ear-phones but his two smart and extra caring sons stop you from taking that ‘mean’ step. The thing is that the old man is not well and his sons are very attentive to his needs and that touches you. Also, one of the sons has helped you with your luggage, so you are kind of indebted. So, you refrain from doing  anything and just bear the annoying music while the pain in your head flashes hard and hot.

Thankfully, the music stops after an hour or so and everybody goes off to sleep. You toss and turn for a major part of the night because your date with the headache is still not over. You sleep for a while and are woken up rudely by the same bhajans of last night. You look at your phone clock and rub your eyes and look at it again. You begin to have trust issues with your phone so you look outside the window to confirm. It’s pitch dark outside and you kind of apologize to your phone and believe that it had shown the right time. It is the ungodly hour of 4.30 am!

You look around with disbelief. Not a single person in your vision area has even turned and everybody is sleeping peacefully. You try to stare in the old man’s direction, but he is busy staring at his phone screen.

Your brain is directing you to speak up and ask him to stop playing the bhajans but your voice refuses to cooperate. You resign yourself to this irritating situation and take out your Kindle to read. But the words do not register as a throbbing headache is developing beneath your temples.

When you reach home early morning, you fume and fret and pour out all your frustration and anger at the events of last night and early morning at your unsuspecting and sleepy husband. You make him listen to the piece of music that you had recorded on your phone.

Your husband, the good man that he is, makes appropriate noises and tries to smoothen your ruffled feathers but not before saying, ‘Your threshold of patience is pretty low.”

Now, I do not agree with his remark completely. But I’d like to ask you that when in a public space, is asking someone to turn their music down a bad idea? Is it ok for people to play virtual games on their devices with game noises kept on? Is it alright for people to play videos on their phones without using the earphones? Should you be listening to halfalogues of people making long personal calls when at a dinner table with friends or in a cinema? Or listening to people taking calls on speakerphone?

I know that these days mobile devices rule our lives but should that let us forget some basic aspects of decency and manners? I believe, playing music or talking loudly shows a certain selfishness and disregard for public spaces. It is being indifferent to the discomfort of people around you. I somehow feel that all this loud music /talks is encroaching your private space in public and it is pretty annoying, irritating and distracting.

Should you expect privacy in public spaces? What do you think?

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18 thoughts on “Should You Expect Privacy in Public Spaces? #MondayMusings

  1. Privacy in public is a contradiction in terms. However, having said that, I must say that we Indians love to make a nuisance of ourselves in public to the discomfort of others in the vicinity!

  2. very common to see around how people around are just not bothered about disturbing the others. Just yesterday at 10.30 p.m in the night a marriage band passing through our lane, beating so loudly disturbing the whole neighborhood, for more than an hour. I felt those guys were hitting my head, wanted to rest being Sunday, next two hours was hell. I feel its being very insensitive, children are preparing for exams, elderly people are resting…. and who is bothered ?

  3. You should, but you don’t. I stopped going to movies many years ago – why pay for the privilege of listing to people talk as if they were in their own living rooms? Public transportation – this has been going on for years; boomboxes before cell phones or MP3 players ever existed (I grew up in New York City). And speaking of cell phones – all those private conversations right out in public. Sad to hear this is a world wide problem.

  4. People are like that. I would l have asked him to stop or use an ear phone. If he refused. I would start to listen to music in my cell phone without an ear phone.

  5. I would have asked him to stop playing bhajans or use headphones. I can never understand how people can play music out loud. I have asked people to switch off music and they give you murderous looks as if you have asked them to donate their organs to you. It is this entitlement to create a nuisance of yourself in a public space that gets my goat.

  6. I can feel for you Shilpa. This incident could be situational. You could have asked the old man courteously to lower the volume but did not for your reasons and I can understand. In our society, we respect our elderlies and questioning them is taken as disrespect. The old man could have his own reasons to keep the volume at decent levels, may be because he might be having hearing problems and bhajans is the only hobby (my apologies for using the term hobby here) for elderlies and yes they also have sleeping problems. I know this because my elderly in-laws will switch on satsangs on TV very early in the morning at top volumes and my father will tune into Japanese stock markets at 4.30 am. But, yes we are talking about privacy in public spaces and I feel as Indians we have to develop higher patience levels for enduring noises.

  7. First, I feel for the hapless husband :-). Jokes aside, I do feel for you. With the advent of smart phones this is becoming a real problem. We still haven’t developed sensitivity for people around us and don’t think twice before playing music or videos out loud. Even at home I get tired of my son singing/listening to Pokemon songs all day and somedays I ask him to use headphones to take care of at least the ‘listening’ part of it. It can get truly tiresome.

  8. tricky situation there Shilpa – with the sons and the elderly man – on the one hand, but on the other – 🙂

    People don’t seem to have respect for others. Noise is the norm it seems … here, cars blaring music, windows down …

  9. I think we can expect some privacy. We can be polite and say, “how good is the bhajan but I wish I was well enough to enjoy. Can you turn the volume down or shut it off?”
    We need to ask for what we deserve. Isn’t it?

  10. I think the term public space referring to train or flight is quite debatable here. There is something called etiquette but the conflicting perspective is his age. But, at the same time, it shouldn’t hinder other passengers which become quite tricky. Personally, I am not sure whether I’d request him to lower the volume. But, yes, it disturbs other passengers. I understand your predicament and believe music is personal and should pull an earplug. Not everyone is keen on listening to our personal preferences. Etiquette matters lot.

  11. Oh poor you! Treating public space as your home is not acceptable. We should have the decency and manners to turn down the volume of phones and us in public places. It doesn’t matter he or she is an elderly person. How would they react to a teenager listening to loud music in a train? Code of conduct is applicable to all. By the way, did you really record that music? Poor your husband! 🙂

  12. Ouch… bhajans on top of a headache! I can imagine!!
    I guess public space is increasingly becoming a ground for exhibition of this kind of self-centred and unmindful behaviour.

  13. oh that must be so annoying for you. People should use headphones. Maybe you should have requested them to lower the volume.But then I am not sure if it will be interpreted as you being rude.

  14. I totally abhor the way people use public spaces to infringe upon each other’s spaces with no consideration whatsoever. You find it everywhere and even though with some people we’ve tried indirectly drawing attention to this, they seem to be oblivious to the discomfort they are causing to the other folks. Sadly, a very common thing in this country!!!

  15. Omg! I can’t even bear the slightest of sounds during my migraine. I truly feel for you. Had I been in the situation I would have acted out my pain…told them politely that I can’t bear it and offered my own Headphones. Even aside the situation, because it was a tricky one, people who listen to music or videos out loud in a public space annoy me. We had free WiFi in our bank branch where I was working and this one customer, after he’d finished his 2 minute job, sat there for about half an hour listening to some video loudly. Can you imagine! I had to up to him twice to tell him to respect that this was a bank and there are other customer there.

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