Was I Rude for Asking a Woman at a Loons Game to Lower Her Voice?
My wife and I have become something of Minnesota United soccer fans.
We attended our first match at Allianz Field back in July of this year and had so much fun that we've made an effort to attend a match a month since. With the exception of that first game -- when we splurged on tickets for seats -- we've always booked tickets for the standing-room only supporter section at the east end of the field. The fans there are particularly loud and rowdy and the atmosphere tangibly electric.
The last match we attended was a couple weeks ago now -- a Saturday night home game against the Houston Dynamo. My wife Katie, our friend Sarah and I had just made ourselves comfortable in an empty row of the fan stands when another couple slid into the row next to us. I didn't pay them much attention as they made pre-game small talk; I gathered enough of their conversation, though, to assume that they probably weren't a couple but more likely friends or colleagues. At 7:05pm, the whistle blew to signal the start of the game...and the woman kept talking. I couldn't tell if the man was ignoring her or just invested in the game -- he cheered during strong plays, clapped when the ref called a foul and swung his scarf during corner kicks. The woman, on the other hand, either didn't seem to notice or didn't care, continuing to talk at increasing volume about everything from issues with her sister's child support to problems at work. To make matters, her voice was a nasally one -- the kind that carries and a tone that grates against nerves like nails on a chalkboard. By halftime my patience was wearing thin, and I told my wife "I don't think I can listen to her for another 45 minutes."
Halftime ended, the whistle blew signaling the second half...and the woman continued talking, picking up right where she'd left off somehow at an even louder volume.
What I did next is uncharacteristic of me, but I snapped.
Turning to the couple, I addressed the woman -- as respectfully as I could -- and asked, "Ma'am, your voice really carries. Would you mind either lowering it or moving to another section?" The woman looked at me sheepishly; the guy with her responded, "It's good. We're good." I turned back to the game, and the woman -- to her credit -- lowered her voice for the remainder of the match.
After the game wrapped up -- the Loons beat Houston 2-0 -- we were preparing to leave when the man tapped me on the shoulder. As I turned, he leaned in to say, "If this ever happens again -- if it happens again -- maybe ask it without the ultimatum." Caught off guard, I quickly thought back over my words "Would you mind either lowering [your voice] or moving to another section?" I thought of the tone of voice I'd used -- direct but not with anger or demand or threat. Certain that I'd been as respectful as possible, I replied, "It wasn't an ultimatum." "It was," he insisted. I was firm, "It wasn't an ultimatum." At that, he put his hands up, "It's all good. I'm not angry, just making you aware." "Hey, I hear you," I replied. "We're good." With that they turned and left.
I've thought about my interaction with that couple often over the past couple weeks. Was I wrong for asking the woman to lower her voice at a public sporting event? Given the context, I don't believe so. Was I disrespectful in the way I approached her? Not intentionally. Is it possible that my words or tone of voice were misinterpreted? Certainly. Do I regret my confrontation with the couple? No...though clearly I'm still thinking about it weeks later.