I have never in my life encountered a group of fully-grown human beings as noisy as my current colleagues. Maybe a group of merry revellers being kicked out of the pub at closing time…. maybe.

These people are a mystery to me.

I can’t say it’s a cultural thing, because we’re a very international bunch. I’m in the foreign languages department at school, so our staff room has teachers of English, Spanish, and German. We consist of two Turks, one German, two Irish, one English, three Americans, two Spaniards, one South African, and one guy from somewhere on Earth (I assume, but cannot be certain).

Let’s start with him. I can’t be more specific about his nationality because I couldn’t understand what he was saying when he told me where he was from, and now it’s too late to ask anyone because it would look really bad if I didn’t know the nationality of my close colleague after nearly 2 months. He is an English teacher, and the general consensus seems to be that he must know someone who knows someone who wangled him the job, for the man really cannot speak English. I find myself getting inwardly frustrated when I’m trying to have a work-related discussion with him, because he doesn’t understand when I speak normally. I have to slow down to the speed I speak at when I teach, and simplify my language similarly.

This does not make him shy and retiring, though. Nooooo. He has the single most annoying voice I’ve ever heard. A nasal, deep, grating, whiny, harsh voice, with extended vowels and an irritating habit of ending every other sentence with “can you imagine?” for no logical reason.  It cuts through me and makes me visibly wince when he gives a sudden loud whoop or yell, as he’s inexplicably prone to doing, usually while in conversation with the South African, who is nice enough but for some reason feels the need to show huge reactions to anything being said. She does this by exclaiming “Are you SERIOUS?” (alllll day) and then jumping up and down, screaming (actually screaming) with laughter, snapping her fingers, and swaying back and forth as if she can’t contain her disbelief. At everything. Loudly.

Meanwhile, the Spanish gals are talking. Talking, talking, el talko mucho. I am not kidding, they have actually sat on either side of me and had a conversation through my head, apparently using my ears as walkie talkies. It hurts my brain. They talk so rapidly that it makes me feel stressed, even though I’ve no idea what they’re saying. I just want to put my arms around them and say “shhhhhh, deep breaths, calm down” like I do with the ADHD kids when they’re having a freak-out.

While this is going on, the Turks enter and begin yelling. Sometimes the yelling is just a normal conversation at an abnormal volume, and sometimes there’s an actual argument going on, but always, always with the yelling. About half of the foreigners also speak Turkish, so that conversation tends to become a shared roar throughout the room. Perhaps Turkish is a language which must be yelled. I really struggle to conceal my annoyance sometimes, especially if I’m trying to either work or have a conversation. The yelling just drowns everything out, including rational thought (and impulse control). I want to interrupt and ask “Why are you yelling? Why? How would it spoil the conversation if you spoke at a normal volume? Can’t you just take it down a couple of decibels?”. No wonder the children are screaming, shouting, out-of-control noise machines.

And then, as if all that wasn’t enough, there’s the clapping and laughing. The South African and the Unidentified Annoying Guy tend to clap their hands a lot for emphasis. I swear to you, it’s like if gunshots were going off inside your brain. I don’t know how they do it. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to raise the volume of clapping, but if anyone was going to manage it, it would be my colleagues. I’ve had to go to the school nurse twice for painkillers after developing an instant migraine from 10 minutes’ exposure to the clapping and the laughing. Oh, wait, I haven’t mentioned the laughing! The two Spaniards laugh like pneumatic drills, the two Turks laugh like shrieking hyenas, one of the American guys seems to find the most mundane things funny enough to giggle hysterically at for a solid ten minutes, and the South African simply continues to scream (as if she’s having a normal conversation).

And just to top it all off nicely, there will always, at some point during the day, be someone who feels the need to blast out a song at a volume I didn’t even know iPhones were capable of producing.

I am going insane.

When I speak, no one hears me. In all honestly, about 90% of the time it’s as if I don’t exist – I don’t think they’re ignoring me or being rude (most of them are nice enough people, and a couple of them are even friendly), I think they actually do not hear me. They genuinely don’t register that I’m speaking because I have a quiet voice. And by quiet, I mean not yelling. I see no need to shriek at someone who’s in the same small room as me, unless I am particularly angry.

Yesterday I hid in a toilet cubicle.

Honestly, it was either that or explode in a fit of tortured madness and start trying to murder people with the stapler (which I had had my crazed eye on for five full minutes of screaming/laughing/clapping/random howling). I calmly walked out as if nothing was wrong, locked myself into a cubicle, put down the toilet lid, and just sat there perched on the edge of the toilet, gazing fixedly at a spot on the door, my right eye twitching slightly now and again.

I have never understood loudness. Why is it necessary to live your life at that volume? As a quiet introvert, it doesn’t just irritate me – it actually makes me stressed and anxious, to the point where I’ll choose to sit in a toilet cubicle for 15 minutes rather than endure any more noise.

Also, I don’t think I ever realised what a privilege and joy it was to have my very own classroom…


4 thoughts on “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

  1. Ian Burnley says:

    It is an age thing. I have actually told a group of guys (about eight of the buggers) to turn it down or I would have them all thrown out, in not so nice terms as I am saying now. It worked

  2. I really am sorry for you, but…. it does sound pretty hilarious, with all of them shrieking and gesticulating and you beginning to twitch and skittering to the toilet.. You didn’t mention the German, but I would hope that (s)he is one of the quieter ones. It’s usually quite subdued in our staff room since it’s the only place anyone has to do their work, so there’s always someone working on something that people are trying not to interrupt. Your description of the scene reminds me of a fantastic line from King of the HIll (prime time comedy show in the 90s about a stuffy Texan) where LuAnn says, “I don’t like that man. He talks mostly in yelling.”

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