It was a cold Saturday evening five years ago.
And my parents and I decided to go out to eat in Flushing at a Malaysian restaurant. I expected calm. I expected quiet. I expected relaxation. And a nice chat with my parents over a warm scrumptious dinner.
I guess I got around half of what I wanted. The dinner sure was scrumptious. But the environment was - unfortunately for me - anything but quiet.
This annoying family of four seated right next to us were talking super loudly, and I had a hard time trying to block it out. I couldn’t focus on my meal and I was annoyed.
I tried to enjoy myself. I tried to talk “normally” to my parents. But I just couldn’t. That family was loud, laughing loudly, and seated right next to us. Did I mention that they were super loud?
After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore. So, I turned right towards them in disgust. One father. One mother. And two adolescent children. And I directly said to all of them: “I’m sorry, but you could guys please shut the f*ck up?”.
And then I turned back to my parents (who were horrified) and continued to eat my meal. The awkward tension continued to build within our section of the restaurant. And then after a while, my mom profusely apologized to the family and told me never to do something like that ever again.
And lo’ and behold, I don’t think I ever did something like that ever again.
But unfortunately, these episodes of being agitated by loud noises in public places would continue. Regardless of whether I went out with my friends. With my girlfriend. With my parents.
Sometimes, it would be another group of people seated conveniently next to us. Sometimes, it would be the group of people in front or behind us while we were waiting in line to see a show. But for some reason, it would always be a group near to us that was being super loud.
And this would continue to happen on and off at public restaurants - depending on where we got seated.
Beyond all the mental agitation, sometimes I would feel my heart beginning to beat rapidly in my chest. And I could feel the anger slowly boil inside of me as noise pollution erupted around me at full throttle.
I’d say to myself, “Are they doing this just to spite me? Why does this always happen to me? Why do the loudest people in the room always seem to be seated right next to me?”
And I must admit, there’s no easy way to get past this frustration. You can’t feel better just because you want to. That feeling of agitation would rise up within myself whenever something like this happens.
I mean, who wants to be disturbed by loud annoying people over lunch/dinner at a public restaurant? Who - in their right frame of mind - would feel good about that? Technically, they’re not doing anything illegal. But still.
Recently, I’ve been trying some strategies to help me cope and deal with this pet peeve of mine - which has admittedly been going on longer than I would like.
For one thing, I would ask myself “would you rather prefer the other group of people to be crying instead of laughing? Would you prefer to be the only one that was dining at this restaurant? For that matter, would you rather be the only person that exists in this world?”
If that were so, then you’d get absolute quiet. Nobody to agitate you nor disturb you (expect yourself). And thankfully, the answer to all these questions I’d ask myself would be an emphatic “no.”
So, in the grand of schemes, what’s the big deal? Yes, they are talking louder than I’d like. Yes, I’m having more trouble focusing on my own conversation within my group. But, in the grand of schemes, is it going to make a big difference either way? The answer to this, would also be an emphatic “no.”
Sometimes, I’d also ask myself “what do you see?” Do you simply see another group of strangers laughing and talking loudly to spite you? Is this the narrative that you are weaving and telling yourself?
What if they were just an anxious group of people? After all, I talk more loudly and laugh more frequently when I’m anxious.
What if they were just super engaged in the conversation they were having? After all, I become less aware of the surroundings around myself when I’m engaged in what I’m doing.
Do you see that they are also human beings? With their own challenges, their own struggles, their own strife, and their own worries? So why don’t you let them have their period of joy and contentment at this public restaurant.
What do you see? What if? Would you rather?
These are some questions that I contemplate in the moment, to help me transcend feelings of insignificant agitation that comes with this pet peeve of mine.
So, if there’s something that annoys you - that you feel should not happen but is in fact happening - ask yourself some of these questions to help contemplate the moment. To see everything for what it is.
Beautiful, imperfect, and just fine. Not necessarily in that order.