Can You Hear Me Now?

21 09 2011

“Lucky you – you get to travel for your job!  Must really be fun, living the expense account life.”

Well, not so much. Here I am in a pretty, but generic hotel room in Norfolk, Virginia.  I have driven all day, prepared for my meeting tomorrow, and had a (bad, no matter who paid for it) dinner alone.

I fire up the laptop for a quick check of e-mail, weather forecast, et cetera to discover the internet access is, well, it isn’t.  Connected, at last, but slow enough to make me miss the dial-up noises, I blunder through messages and log off so I can be up and at ‘em early in the morning.

Alarms set; I turn off the lights and the TV.  I know I turned it off. Why can I still hear it?  Oh.  OH.  OH!  It is from the room next door.  This won’t do, but what to do about it? I could knock on the door and ask for some neighborly consideration – that’s a woman traveler no-no.  I could tap gently on the wall and hope the message would be accepted without offense – could as easily result in guaranteed maximum volume all night. 

Wait a minute.  That’s not just the TV.  He’s on the phone and I can hear every word.  At first, I am even more annoyed, but then I realize this is my chance.  I call the front desk and politely inform the concierge that the gentleman in the adjacent room must surely not be aware of the lack of soundproofing in the walls and that I feel he should be warned that his conversations are not private as he might think.  It is the respectful and right thing to do.  It would be too unseemly for me NOT to warn him, via the front desk. There is relative quiet now, so I suppose my good deed message was delivered (courteously and professionally from Marriott staff.)

These days, we are all acutely aware and outraged by e-mail hacking, phone taps, and all other electronic assaults on our privacy.  It is wise to remember we, too, have a role in betraying our personal business.  Cell phone conversations are conducted in public places.  Computer screens are easily read from over our shoulders.  Portable communication devices give us the freedom to conduct business as if we were at home or in our offices, but we are NOT at home.

Whether or not you want me to, yes, I can hear you now.




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