Friday, May 29, 2009

Listening to People on the Bus

When rain makes biking unsafe, I take the bus. The women seated across from me on the bus were full of emotion, chatting about the health problems of someone they seemed to both know. They were loud enough that I didn't have to be rude to listen in. Detail after detail. Concern after concern. These women knew so much about te disease that I imagined they had looked up the details on WebMD.com They had opinions about how the disease should be treated and how various other people should help out in this sad situation. But the more I listened, the more something wasn't right. Nobody tells that much about their lives -- even to their friends. These women couldn't be talking about someone they really knew. And then they blew their cover. This woman on whom they lavished their concern was a soap opera character.

There's something jarring about that -- we know more about fictional characters than about the people in our own lives. And we want it that way. We want our privacy. But we also want the level of concern that I heard in those women's voices. Is lack of privacy the necessary price for compassion?

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