The operatic duet soared, and my breathing was on hold as
the final notes trailed off towards silence. That magical moment
abruptly ended with some oaf's premature loud clapping and shouts
of "Bravo." (I delight in the performance where the
tenor, singing a French ballad about a husband dying as his wife
and her lover were fleeing, was interrupted by a premature clapper.
The performer stopped the orchestra and said gently to the offender:
"The husband is still dying. Please save your applause until
he is dead," and then started up the orchestra and continued.)
Premature interrupters are found all along life's path. Far too common is the person at academic lectures whose arm shoots into the air and voices an interrogative challenge before the speaker even has a chance to take a sip of water. Everyday variations are found in meetings where an individual, who has stopped listening to another's thoughts, jumps in with her or his own words just as the last syllable is spoken. Then there is the parent whose minimizes another parent's pride by immediately noting her or his own child's greater achievement.
What these premature interrupters have in common is an interest in showing off: they recognize a superb performance before others do, their erudite response excels the speaker's words, their ideas sweep aside any thoughtful consideration of the previous person's ideas, and their children have more interesting personalities, lives, and accomplishments that any other child.
Alas, what I object to in others, too often I find subtly at work in myself as well. Instead of giving my full attention to a speaker's message, I pigeonholed her ideas and miss her subtle nuances. Rather than giving full consideration to the words of the person across the table, I am mentally figuring out my verbal response to him. Impatiently, I wait for another to stop speaking so that I can jump in with my own words, turning a conversation into a verbal ping pong match.
A magical musical moment is not my only loss in life.
--Robert H. Tucker
10 May 1999