Eavesdropping (ou, écouter une conversation privée)
[posted by Amy -- note: I wrote this on Wednedsay, but couldn't get it posted because of Blogger server problems.]
Despite Isabelle’s prudent warning, I decided to brave the first-day soldes crowds so that I could return a package of socks that didn’t fit Colin. First off, let me say that shopping for plain white socks in
While Rachel and I were standing in line (a long period of time because EVERY customer ahead of us decided to apply for a store card), we chattered away to each other in English. After a bit, Rachel noticed that the woman in line behind us was watching us very closely. In reaction, she turned to look at the woman, and when they made eye contact, her natural reaction was to give a small smile. In response, the woman said (in English), “I was trying to understand you, but you talk so fast!”
Personally, I was so surprised to hear someone talk to us in English that I actually felt a little bit flattered. (I have no idea why I felt flattered that someone noticed me speaking English – it’s not really a compliment or anything. “Hey, way to speak in your native tongue!”) We chatted with the woman and her son for a couple of minutes, during which time she asked if we were A) American and B) Texan. (I decided not to explain that people from
After we left, Rachel told me that she was a bit annoyed with that woman for eavesdropping on our conversation. Her reaction surprised me, but not because of her emotional response. I was surprised to hear her call the woman’s actions eavesdropping! Of course, that’s exactly what the woman was doing, but somehow, I perceived it as something else while it was happening.
This got me thinking: does the fact that we were speaking another language make eavesdropping acceptable? Her intent was simply to practice her aural skills in a language she doesn’t get to use much, which is more respectable than just being nosy. Does intent matter?
As another example, I was riding the bus about two months ago when I overheard a British couple trying to figure out where their stop was. As it happened, they wanted to get off at the same stop I was taking. I politely tried to ignore them for most of the trip, but finally, when we got close to the stop, I told them that I was getting off at the same place and that it was coming up soon. So, since I was being helpful, did that make my eavesdropping acceptable? I really didn’t think I was being rude, but maybe I was. (As a side note, it is nearly impossible for me to avoid eavesdropping when I hear people speak English here. It’s such a weird, rare occurrence that I always end up being fascinated by the sounds.)
So, here is the question of the day: is eavesdropping always rude? Vote now! (Or as Diddy would say, Vote or Die!)