Just for fun the other day, I began to think about the behavior that I or anyone else can witness in a public space such as a restaurant. Within any given time span, you can hear others talking to each other, addressing their server or ruminating about the menu, the service or the weather. It caused me to wonder how and if our behavior would change if we knew that there were recording devices in the area.

It requires a certain amount of paranoia to believe that any or all of our conversations are taped (or whatever the technology would suggest). For now, therefore, we’ll assume that they are not being recorded. But what would various restaurant visitors, sports fans or drivers do differently if their voices were to be heard by others, now or later.

On my part, I am known to sing along with favorite songs that are playing in a restaurant. While I do this quietly, is it reasonable to assume that I would stop altogether if there were a microphone present? Likewise, whether we choose to hear the conversations of people in our vicinity, we can often do so. Sometimes it has to do with volume, other times with the room acoustics.

Most of the conversation is innocuous. Other times, I can’t help but imagine having hid a microphone, either to make it known to the occupants or not. It makes me wonder if restaurant visitors who hear how rude they were to servers would cease delivering that type of information. And when I recently heard a young woman, a high school junior or senior, disrespecting her father at dinner, what would happen if she heard how she sounded? While I didn’t intend to hear, her volume made that my reality.

The lesson here is (as always) to think before you speak and consider your surroundings when you deliver panaceas, platitudes and parcels of prosaic prose. The world isn’t usually interested in how much you hate artichokes or the guy in the next cubicle. If you imagined that your words were to be captured for infinity, you might be more thoughtful. Shalom.

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