The guy sitting behind me and my grandson was constantly screaming in our ears and every other word was cursing.
I was verbally assaulted the other night.
It started out innocently enough. We were taking our grandson to a baseball game for his birthday. What could be more wholesome? It’s the American national pastime after all. There’s even a kosher hot dog stand. Everything seemed in place for a relaxing pleasant family evening.
Until the guy behind us started yelling. Now let me first stipulate that he happened to be a very friendly person. He gave us all warm smiles in greeting, he helped flag down the vendor with the Minute Maid lemon ices and he directed us to our seats. Yet not only was he constantly screaming in my ear (which was actually quite painful) but every other word out of his mouth was vulgar or cursing.
I could forgive the yelling (after all the electronic billboard kept flashing “Make some noise” and he was just following orders) but the swearing was jarring. Not only did I want to cover my grandson’s ears, I wanted to cover mine. It really diminished my pleasure in the game and hindered my ability to watch in peace.
To borrow a word from the current campus debates, I was craving a safe space where I could just watch some baseball and enjoy the nighttime air without being subjected to vocabulary and behavior I found antagonizing. He may not have meant to be aggressive but his language was. And it was painful.
I’ve written in the past about the Torah’s focus on speaking in a refined way. Today my thoughts are elsewhere, on consideration, on the recognition that we share space with others in this world and that we need to take that into account. This means refraining from loud personal phone calls while in line at a store or other confined public places, that if we are frustrated with our children or spouse we should discuss in private at home (this is for our benefit as well), and that we should in general learn to speak in a soft and gentle fashion.
We should stand back from others in line and especially avoid pushing. Sensitivity to others means not crowding them physically, emotionally or psychologically. Thoughtfulness means recognizing that we are not alone on this planet and that as we make our way through the crowded streets (and baseball stadiums) of our big cities, we need to think of others not just ourselves. And we need to behave in a way that doesn’t impinge on their rights, on their space.
This isn’t always easy. It’s yet another way and time that we think of others instead of only ourselves. It’s not always as dramatic as loudly cursing in the ears of your fellow baseball fans. But it can still be an invasion of space. It can still feel like a violation.
I’m happy to report that the Dodgers won the game (maybe his enthusiasm helped?) but if they go on to future glory, I will not be there to cheer them on. I’m still reeling from the assault on my eardrums and sensibilities.
Even though the fellow didn’t mean anything by it, I felt violated anyway. I hope it will make me more aware of how my public behavior may impact others and I hope I can find some better recreational activities to share with my grandchildren…