Friday, August 02, 2013

Shhh!

Is it just me, or is the volume control on teenagers broken nowadays? Is it a recent development, or has it always been so? I don’t remember ever being so loud, but then again, I’m old and memory has a way of playing tricks. I only have the now for reference.

Over the years, I’ve become quite an expert in teenage volume. Working in a school exposes me to a higher quotient of teenagers than most other people.

The loudness usually happens in the hallways, between peers standing right next to each other, but conducting their conversation as a shouting match. “KALISOD SA EXAM NI SIR, OY!” “BITAW! HAGBONG NA POD KO!”

I’m not the only one to make the observation. Friends and co-teachers swear by it, too. But then again, all of us are old fogeys. Perhaps our ears have become a little sensitive.

I do wonder about the roots of all this conversational shouting. Is it culturally determined? Exchanges of this sort are always in the vernacular, in our case, Bisaya, or Davao-Bisaya, or conyo Bisaya. Is it a function of gender? Girls seem to shout more than boys.

Perhaps this needs a more scientific approach. Maybe I’ll park myself in a high traffic one afternoon with a notepad, taking down notes of what people are saying and who’s saying it.

Or maybe it really is just a function of age. My colleague Fr. Denny demonstrated a sound clip to me one time. “This is a sound that only teenagers can hear,” he said. He played it. “Do you hear it?”

“Uh, no...”

“Hey, V--,” he called out to the office’s working student, “do you hear anything?”

“Yes. I hear a clicking sound.”

I’ve made a game out of this propensity for loudness among the younger set. I call it “Shhh!”

This is how I play it: whenever I chance upon an overly loud student, I sidle up beside them, purse my lips, put a finger up, and let out a very audible “Shhhh!” That elicits an embarrassed look. A sudden quiet descends all around, and only nervous giggles can be heard. Then I lower my eyes and affect a zen-like stance, as if meditating.

It’s one of the pleasures of being old, and in authority. He he he.