I enjoy dining out.

Within the last month or so, I’ve gone out for dinner twice. Both times with people I love very much. Each time, I’ve enjoyed engaging, stimulating conversation, witty exchanges, much laughter and connection. We sat close, leaned in closer, when something was said that required more concentrated attention. The food was excellent, the company even more so.

Each time (and there have been numerous other times this has occurred; I am choosing these two occasions because they were recent), there has been a table in very close proximity, where one or two individuals, seated with one or two or more, felt it necessary to speak at a much louder volume than anyone else present. The individuals were, without fail, male. One incident actually involved a cell phone ringing, and the male who had been speaking loudly, proceeded to answer his phone even louder, but kindly (I use the term loosely) left the table to continue the call.

(Please note: I am not singling out men here. It’s just that, while I have noticed women being loud and obnoxious, it’s usually in a social, group outing session, never in a dining situation.)

I am an outspoken individual, when I feel a situation warrants it. During both these dinners, I tensed, when the too loud vocalizations of the other person intruded on the conversation that was being carried on at my table. I get a certain expression, that is easily interpreted, and that I know for a fact causes anyone with me, and certainly did cause those who were with me on these occasions, to think Oh shit, and then say out loud, “It’s okay, Rebecca. Just let it go. Restrain yourself (or something to that effect).” I am respectful of the wishes of those I am with; I understand the desire to avoid confrontation. I dislike confrontation myself. And so, in these situations, I restrain myself admirably.

But here’s the thing: If no one takes the initiative, to inform these individuals that they are disruptive, that they are loud, and over-bearing, and self-indulgent, and overall annoying, such behaviour will continue. No one has the right to orchestrate my dining experience, simply because they have low self-esteem and a big mouth. No one has the right to intrude on what is a pleasant time spent with someone I care deeply for, simply because they harbour feelings of self-importance, are obviously narcissistic, and haven’t the wit to realize how truly deplorable their behaviour is.

I have, on these occasions, uttered words that have been considered confrontational (please note I did not say muttered). The difference between my voice and theirs, however, is pitch. I am very, very self-aware. And I know how to pitch my voice so only the subject I am addressing hears what I say. It’s called “directing”. I’ve trained dogs, successfully and for many years. Dogs are very keen to a person’s pitch. It’s something I’ve tried to teach, but it’s not easy to do so. It’s a very important skill to learn, directing your voice, keeping it at just the right pitch, so it’s heard by those who need to hear it, and no one else. Not everyone realizes I can do this, and I find I have to reassure them, when they caution me. I take their cautions seriously, and I do not do what I sorely wish I could, because their comfort matters more to me than mine.

But again I ask: If no one says anything, does the other person learn anything? Do they learn to modify themselves, their behaviour, or do they just continue to be boorish, irritating, and over-bearing, because those who are annoyed wish to avoid confrontation?

I know the answer. You do too. And I will, with each situation, govern my own behaviour accordingly.

Maybe those I am speaking of could do the same.