Watch Your Language

Two weeks ago, I was on the bus heading back from the airport. On the bus was a young woman talking loudly on her cell phone. She had several bags and a large rolled up poster. Evidently she was an undergrad just coming from a medical research conference. She told her phone companion that many researchers were shocked that she wasn’t even in medical school yet, and that they were confident that someone who was already presenting research would get into a good school.

As the bus moved along, she started talking about all the food available at the conference. She described in detail the delightful pastries, the sandwich platters, “those cute little cheesecakes.” She complained that some of the food wasn’t of acceptable quality, but that some were really excellent, and all of it free. She was loud enough that even though she sat near the front, I could hear her from my seat near the back.

What struck me about this was not her, but the people around her. The bus was traveling through a run down part of Chicago. Some people on the bus may be struggling. Some people may not know if they’ll be able to afford food this week. It struck me as tactless for this young woman to be so vocal about food in that situation.

At the same time, I needed to check myself for how often I behave this way. Even if I am not as outspoken about it, there are ways in which I assert my entitlement to things and complain when I don’t get them. This experience reminded me to be mindful of others around me. This is not about censoring myself for the sake of fragile folks around me, but about taking care about how my words may have an effect on others.

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