Column: What are words when no one listens?

08/03/2011 2:08 PM |

Do you ever get the feeling that people aren’t listening to you? Like people are hearing, but not really concentrating on the words you’re saying?

I do. All the time.

Vera Chinese

Here is one example. While combing through the Riverhead Town Police blotter down at the station — one of my weekly work duties — a local resident and her mother approached me. The women asked if I was a lawyer working on a big case.

There are plenty of things I could be mistaken for, namely a middle-schooler, but a lawyer? Attorneys usually wear shoes that cost more than $7. The good ones, anyway.

“No I am a reporter,” I explained. “I am just examining the police blotter.”

“Well I have a great case for you,” the woman said while taking out her files.

She went on to explain a civil dispute with one of her neighbors and something about how someone yelled at her for watering her lawn while wearing a bathing suit. I had to explain to the ladies that I couldn’t help them, as that is not what journalists are cut out for. Otherwise we wouldn’t be poor.

They seemed to acknowledge what I was saying, but on the way out the older woman said “good luck with your cases.”

Thanks lady. You too.

But the lack of attention isn’t limited to strangers. I wouldn’t say that my fiancé, Grant, doesn’t listen to me. I just sometimes suspect he’s waiting for my mouth to stop moving so he can talk about himself.

Lately, whenever I bring up a story that I am excited about, my husband-to-be, a fellow journalist, trumps me by talking about the Times/Review 20 Greatest Athletes in area history series, a project the company began rolling out July 29 and will continue until Aug. 17. I would say I’m going to be happy when the series is finished, but then it’s nearly the start of football season when I can forget about expecting any attention for half the weekend.

Then there’s my parents and my siblings. They love me and are proud of my work, right? Or at least they know the name of the place where I work? Yeah, you would think.

Over dinner several weeks ago I asked my parents and two sisters if they knew the name of the publication I work for, a newspaper that is delivered to their house every Thursday, mind you. I was met with blank stares. After a few moments of awkward silence my sister Angela then asked, “The North Shore … Times?”

That’s an amalgam of two Times/Review publications, neither of which are the flag I write for. Nice try, Angela.

But in all honesty, I can’t get too mad at people because life is hectic and I spend a lot of time tuning people out too. Most of the time Grant is a very attentive partner who does things like scooping the litter box and paying the mortgage without complaining.

My parents, who raised me and put me through college, don’t live in the coverage area and I guess just never bothered to read the bold letters at the top of newspaper every week. My mom actually has a scrapbook of all my print stories, so she gets a pass. And I didn’t know the name of the doctor’s office Angela works for so she’s OK too.

And as for the lady at the police station, I sure as heck wasn’t going to listen to her nutty story, so why should she hear me?

What I’m saying is we’re all guilty of being self-absorbed from time to time, especially in an age where its socially acceptable to post things like “tired, sleep time” “gym, sesh” or “bored, lol” on Facebook (sidenote: nobody cares and we all know you’re not actually LOLing). But I think as long as we keep it in check and take the time to really listen to the people in our lives most of the time, we should be all right.

Oh, I’m sorry, you were saying something?

Vera Chinese is a staff reporter at the Riverhead News-Review and Times/Review Newsgroup’s associate web editor. She can be reached at (631) 298-3200 Ext. 232 or at [email protected]