When You Bring a Megaphone to Confession

I’m not sure how to write this story, but I’ve been dying to get this “napkin” (which isn’t really a napkin at all but more like a tiny piece of notebook paper) out of the queue. It is a story from which I haven’t been able to glean very much wisdom.  Maybe it’s a little bit about a “kind-of date.” Maybe it’s about listening to the elderly.

The story starts in one of my favorite bars in When you Bring a Megaphone to ConfessionAtlanta. It’s this little two-story beer and wine bar in the Decatur area. It was the Saturday that marks the beginning of college football season, which in Georgia is like the first Easter every time. I was meeting a friend at the Georgia Dome a little later for the Chick-Fil-A Kick-Off Game, which is where this very charming picture to the right was taken (after several drinks).

But this story is about this tiny and loud girl I was having pre-game drinks with in Decatur. We had met at a coffee shop, and she was cute enough, and she seemed smart enough, so I asked her to meet me at this spot for a bit if she was interested, and she was.

Everything was fine, but in this bar, I realized how loud she was, and how much she was talking, and how the subject matter was not for public and definitely not for that volume, which I guess is another way of saying that everything was not “fine,” as fine implies no complaints, and I just listed several.

I know that bars are usually loud, and this one was kind of chatty, too. But in reality (which is where we were–smack dab in the middle of reality, actually) the place was actually kind of quiet for a bar. There was no loud band or DJ playing. There was only her talking over the rumble of other conversations. Oh, and we weren’t at our own table, which would have at least given the visual of privacy. We were sitting at the actual bar with people on either side of us and bartenders rustling about making drinks.

She was telling some story about her family. It would seem she didn’t have a great life growing up, and that’s not something to judge her over. We all have demons, right? But there is a reason that the Catholics hold confession in an anonymous chamber at low volumes. She could have been holding a megaphone at a pep rally and she wouldn’t have been any louder than she was on that bar stool. The subject matter is only important in that it was pretty heavy for a casual happy hour. Aside from that, the volume is really all that matters.

So, you know when you’re in an awkward situation with a person who is screaming the intimate details of their life at you in a public place? I’m not so sure about everyone else, but my eyes begin to dart around the room. “Who else is hearing this?” I ask myself. If I make eye contact with anyone, I give a nervous smile or hopeless eyebrow shrug.

My eyes scanned the room on that day in Decatur, too, and I realized that the older couple to my back (as I was turned toward her) was chuckling a bit and cutting eyes in my direction.

fleeThey cashed out and took off pretty soon after I noticed them, and as they left, they dropped a little note on the bar. When I saw the note, I wasn’t sure it was for me, but the bartender affirmed that is was. The note said, “She’s cute, but…FLEE!!! RUN AWAY!!!! Escape while you can!!!” If you were counting, that is TEN exclamation points…and a lot of capital letters and underlining.  The urgency was clear.

I felt a little bad about the whole thing until I realized what they probably meant and why they probably wanted me to flee. It was something that they saw in her loud confessional that I didn’t quite see. She was impulsive and loudly passive aggressive. She would rather talk-yell about someone or something instead of actually talking to the person in an attempt to address the issue in any kind of upfront manner.

So when she thought we were much more serious than I did, and when she realized that I thought we were less serious than she did, she raised her voice to everyone who would listen, but she never talked to me. That couple (specifically the lady, who I am pretty sure wrote the note) knew, on some level, what was coming. They recognized the symptoms.

Look, we all raise our voices at inappropriate times. And sometimes when we should be loud, we aren’t loud enough.

I’m sure this is one of those stories that should teach me something more than a lesson on appropriate volumes and social behaviors. Maybe the lesson is to “listen to your elders” or “ignore the yelling.”

Or maybe the lesson is that when someone yells, they need you to listen, but not necessarily to the words.

There was pain there, but all I could hear was volume.

Until next time,



7 thoughts on “When You Bring a Megaphone to Confession

  1. Great story Shane! I love how that older couple were willing to “interfere” in your life to the extent they did. It was lightly done, but they felt strongly enough about it to drop that note. My observation about people who speak very loudly is that it’s another way of taking up space. It’s also revealing; it says my true belief about myself is that I’m not important, I’m not enough in and of myself, so I have to show myself to be bigger than I really think I am. I don’t say that with judgement – most of us hold false beliefs about ourselves. I think it’s the underlying self-belief in another person we respond to, rather than the outer behaviour which is an expression of it.

    • Nina! Thanks so much for the note. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. 🙂

      It does sort of come off as one of those interesting and logic-defying moments of low self-esteem. Something about being unsure or less-than-confident does sometimes cause us to walk bigger and peacock around a bit more.

      Thanks again!

  2. I think that perhaps the moral was never at all about the elderly couple. I think that when someone may reach out, they open themselves to vulnerability. And when that vulnerability is ignored, the impulse and desperation to cling to some kind of thought that someone hears you overwhelms. It’s no longer the person that’s sitting beside them that they need to listen, but instead anyone in the room that will step into the conversation and stop them, “Hey, it’ll be okay, because I’ve been there too.”

    Was there logic in what the elders were saying? Yes, completely. But there’s still two sides to every story.

    • I agree with you on a lot of what you’re saying here. The more I think about it, the less I think that the moral involves the elderly couple at all. Like the previous commenter says, sometimes people have this need to feel bigger than they are–some sort of self-importance maybe. Also, like you say, maybe what she was saying wasn’t for me anymore, but for everyone. It was just a little much for me, I guess.

      I’m starting to suspect that this story doesn’t have a moral, or that, like Vonnegut says “The moral of the story is we’re here on Earth to fart around.” Which is to say, “there is no greater purpose to the story other than the experience that it gave me and the girl and the couple. As a lit-head English person, I worry that I search for meaning too often in places where there is no meaning to be found. Sometimes a bad date is just a bad date, and sometimes a loud and socially unaware person is just that. Authors that practice realism shouldn’t really look for morals, I suppose (and I’m the guiltiest of all as I tend to get a little too philosophical sometimes for even my own taste). I mean, even Mark Twain threatened death to anyone looking for a moral in Huck Finn’s story.

      And to your other point, there are always only at least two sides to any story. But I would argue that there are many more. We can’t discount the impact that our stories have on observers. In this story, for example, the casual observers were driven to action for some reason. Something they saw prompted action. I think the bartender also probably has a version of that story that I would be interested in hearing.

      We’re really held prisoner by our own perspective and all of its glorious deficiencies.

      Thanks for the note, Parker. And thanks for stopping by.

  3. Hey Shane –

    I love this little tale. And I do see a moral. I think it’s that you should always listen to the little voice within when it serves you well and always ignore the hell out of it when it gets all uppity.

    Why? Because …

    1 – You knew. Before you got the note from the astute couple, you already knew that something was amiss. Looking around the room, wondering about the volume, appreciating that, though painful, her story was unfolding in the often overlooked “wrong place/wrong time” universe. You KNEW. Why? The little, quiet, almost apologetic voice we all have that makes our hair tingle and our noses itch.

    2 – She knew. Let’s, for brevity’s sake, assume that mental illness, drugs, and/or poor hearing were not in play. Obviously, if they were, there might be some wiggle room here. When she was telling you about herself, she was playing a part. Victim? Survivor? Quirky pal? Whichever. She too was hearing a voice. It was a script, and a well-practiced one. The volume, the forced intimacy, the odd affect in light of her surroundings are all hallmarks of that day not being her first foray into her monologue. And her “voice” was the nasty twin of yours. Hers was the voice that makes our butts clinch up tighter and our hearts beat faster. It was the loud, obnoxious voice of the boastful frat boy and the little girl who lifts her pink dress up over her head in church. The “look at me, I’m amazing” voice.

    Schizophrenics aside, we ALL hear voices. Notice the plural. Just like the cartoon image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, we have a “good” voice and a “naughty” voice, and many in between varieties as well. That night, you listened to your angel. She didn’t.

    So consequently, you moved on to a different woman – also petite and sometimes loud, but in an adorable, not unsettling, way. Meanwhile, the woman and the voice she SHOULD have ignored simply became fodder for another napkin.

    So, see? You have not only moral, but a triumph of good over evil, a larger cast of characters than initially meets the eye, AND a happily ever after for the hero.

    Dang, Shane!! Take out the bar references, and you’re the next Disney sensation!

  4. Anna,
    Before I dig into this, let me say that I love a comment that is so thorough that is has to number its sections. I apologize for my tardiness on the response, but I wanted to spend a bit of time on it.

    1. You’re right. I knew in a really big way. I like that you say that the little voice is apologetic. It definitely is. That little voice makes a ton of excuses for people.
    2. You very obviously know this person, or you know (as I’m sure we all do) a hundred people like her. Also…butts clenching tighter. Yes.

    I started to hear an angel that night for sure. Though, sometimes I feel like the antagonist in the story (not necessarily the villain, and definitely not a victim of any sort). Maybe she was just looking for support. Is it my place to question her methods?

    And I most definitely moved on to another woman, who can be loud, but not of volume. She’s the right and perfect and beautiful kind of loud, but I suppose you know that.

    I think I have to keep the bars in my stories. If we take out the booze, I’m not sure the stories make as much sense, and without it, I definitely have much more questionable taste. So I don’t think I can do Disney. Shucks!

    Thank you SO much for stopping by, Anna. I do love a good response like this one.

  5. As I was reading this, my background in mental health diagnosis was nagging me about her lack of boundaries and questioning what other behaviors she had to better understand if she just seeks attention or has a personality disorder. Or none of the above and she is just obnoxious. Haha! (My degrees are in social work)

    We have definitely all crossed paths with someone like her and the note left by the couple was humorous for sure. Great story!

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