Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Whatcha readin'?"

Don't you hate that question? I hate when I'm reading on the tram or walking someplace and a stranger asks me what I'm reading. The book should pose an imaginary boundary, a wall that one should not try to penetrate. Especially a stranger. It's not rude to read a book in public, but it is rude to interrupt someone who is absorbed in their reading. Whether its the newspaper, book, magazine or bible*.

I've often taken my book on my regular walk to collect the kids from school. It's a route I know very well and can manage it with peripheral attentions quite easily. As soon as someone speaks to me - that's it you've overloaded my senses and put me at risk of stepping off the curb into traffic! Hope you're happy, you nosy prat! I exaggerate slightly. Rarely has someone aked me while I've been an active pedestrian. On trams, trains or buses however - all the time. Why they can't just do what a normal, polite person should do and crane their necks a bit to peek at the book's cover, I don't know. I could be mildly egotistical and say, perhaps I'm so stunning that they find the book question a wonderful way to enter conversation and perhaps more? Because "Whatcha readin'?" is a great way to open a conversation because the next question is "What's that about?"

"What's that about?" is the crux of the conversation. How you respond will determine if the conversation continues or stops dead. You could be honest or you could lie. You could stop the attempts cold and respond "You know, I just want to read my book, excuse me." but that will make for an uncomfortable trip until one of you exits the transport. Unless - please no - you get off at the same stop. At which point I'd have to immediately walk to the nearest shop in fear of being stalked. If you answer the question, the person will either inquire more about it if you sell the story well, or back off in conversation because you've failed to impress them. Aren't they obnoxious?! How dare they judge us for what we choose to read?! Who invited their opinion anyways? ARG - I hate them! And their book taste/ pompous judging ways.

Best thing to do, is read your book with headphones in place. Not on of course because if you happen to be walking you still need to be mindful of traffic and pickpockets. Also of when your stop is coming up on transport. But as a tool to discourage the "Whatcha readin'?" types from getting a chance to pass judgment or think they can get in your pants. Don't let them get a chance to think themselves smugly clever at our expense while interrupting our read.

*Which is a book and yet I offer it up in its own category because this becomes questioner's beware as bible readers are probably the only people who love to be asked "Whatcha readin'?" because then they get to tell you in all its glory and we shouldn't encourage such behaviour. Then again, serves the questioner right.


Sy said...

Maybe you could hide your book in a bible cover to discourage questions? But then that may just bring a whole new crowd of creepers.

Anonymous said...

Sy took the words right out of my mouth!!

You walk and read at the same time? Sorry, but this is amazing to me! I can barely do one thing at a time...two? Forgetaboutit!

Brook said...

I gave up reading and driving. True. It was hard but you have to think of the kids. Come to think of it, I don't read in public too much anymore. Too hard to pay attention to the rest of the world. Most of my reading is at home, bookstores, and in the car when I'm the passenger. I get so caught up in books on tape that I can't drive listening to them either.
the question could lead to good conversation but really, a true reader would know better than to interrupt!

Marg said...

I have been known to have book conversations with people, usually on the train, but I generally already know what they are reading (because I am nosy and can't but look) and it will be a conversation about why I liked that book etc. Talking about books on the train is how I was introduced to my group of train friends!

Lyvvie said...

Marg, that's what I always hope the conversation will turn into - a discussion about the book, or books or something. I just never seem to get that. I get the goobers.

Reading and driving and sick in the head! But I can understand the not being able to focus on book-on-tape while driving because I'd have to rewind it. I have the slimmest attention span for radio talk.

HiH - Walking and reading is daredevil. Takes the brave. You can be brave. Most people, probably smarter people with some impulse control and who can wait 30 minutes to find out what happens next, just aren't up to the challenge.

Sy - Will have nightmares now!!

Kelley said...

I used to walk and read. It was awesome getting to the destination way quicker than if I was just critiquing peoples gardens and curtains.

But then I found the internet. And it is just too damn hard to walk with my laptop...

Sy said...

Kelley - iPhone!

Nej said...

My hubby is an offender, of sorts. Laying in bed, reading a book....and he starts talking. Hello! Don't you see I'm reading? :-) Then he gets all mad when I huff and put the book down. :-)

Actually, as social as he is...he might talk to strangers about their books as well. I'd never thought about it, but it fits. :-)