The tree cutters had been buzzing all morning, cutting up the remains of the 40-foot fallen pine. It’s a necessary nuisance…and much preferable to neighbors who can’t manage their barking dogs. But makes it hard to work on technical writing projects.
So I decided to bike down the street to see a mid-morning candidate meet ‘n greet, hosted by a neighbor, featuring the local state senator who lives in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope district. I knew I could pop in and out if needed—and they had promised food and refreshments.
Now, I’ve run across this senator a number of times for the neighborhood clean-ups that she organizes and I find her a credible politician, albeit Republican. As expected, the refreshments table was loaded with excellent fruit and pastries of all kinds. There were about 30 people in the big house.
Eventually, the hostess introduced our guest speaker who gave a 20-minute presentation. Granted, she’s running for office, but her preso was very party-neutral and she focused mainly on state education issues. She also brought up the methadone clinic issues that are causing major headaches and conversations on the Next Door discussion boards. It’s really complicated because methadone is related to addiction is related to homelessness is related to neighborhood crime. It’s all one hot mess, but needs to be addressed.
And now to the point.
I brought up my two issues: the massive bicycle theft industry problem in Sunnyslope, and the possibility of reviving the Art Walk to it’s former glory. My questions took about 40 seconds, after which I shut up. As the guest speaker started responding, I could see an elderly lady in red off to the side raising her hand, presumably to comment on one of my points. The candidate gave a 3-5 minute response. The lady in red raised her hand again.
But then, an older guy, sitting comfortably back in a giant TV chair toward the front, asked a question (or rather, gave a talk) for about five minutes on the subject of education. Naturally he didn’t look around to see who else was raising a hand. (One is tempted to call this a man-thing, but I’ve witnessed the same behavior from women.) Now, as I said, the candidate had already addressed education in her opening remarks, ad nauseam, so I wasn’t sure what the guy was getting at, but she went ahead and spent another five minutes on the topic.
At this point, the thing that always happens at these events did happen.
The guy in the comfy chair decided to ask another question! Except it wasn’t a question: it was an 8-10-minute something…I’m not even sure what…about education in Arizona. The guest speaker eventually tried to respond, saying “Well, it sounds like you’ve actually got about 10 questions in there…” and proceeded to address the guest with a 3-point response. As she finished her third point and was seemingly winding down, the man in the chair wanted to follow up again.
I couldn’t take it any more.
I politely interrupted from the back, “I think the young woman in red over there has been trying to ask something…”
And that’s how the nice elderly woman in a bright red dress got to speak.
I started noticing and writing about this phenomenon a few years ago after a Phoenix public library science presentation and then again at a Tempe historical museum performance* where I noticed that:
(1) people in the front of a group never seem to consider that there may be people behind them;
(2) some people think they can keep asking questions no matter how many other people are in the room.
Apparently some folks weren’t paying attention when I authorized this rule last October.