I go to so many business meetings -- and I'm not even invited

It's one of the occupational hazards of going out for a coffee in Silicon Valley. Go to Izzy's Bagels in Palo Alto, for example, where I am now. There are two young guys talking very loudly about their current business ideas -- everything they say is clearly being heard by everyone else in the room. The substance of their discussion, I'm helpless to ignore, could fairly be described as business intelligence (right now the blond guy is revealing his long term plans for his financial technology start up: he's going to sell out after 5 years. I'll try and catch the name of the company in case you want to invest, or divest).

So why are they talking so loudly?

Maybe they figure that because there's no-one in here they recognize, the place is empty of anyone who really counts in their lives. Maybe they want us to hear and be impressed with the substance of their conversation. Maybe they really have no idea of what privacy should mean for them -- and for those of us who are expected to endure their conversation.

I'm amazed by how often this happens. The other week I was sat next to Anne Wojcicki of Google-funded bio-tech startup 21 and Me as she held what sounded like an investor or analyst briefing. Her company touts itself as "the world's trusted source of personal genetic information." Hmmm.

One lunch time at Printer's Inc. a small business owner revealed to a potential investor (and me since I was at the next table) all kinds of data about her debts and liabilities, her problems with specific employees and partners and more. It was kind of compelling and I almost offered advice myself -- after all, by their choosing to meet within two feet of me, I'd been involuntarily invited to attend.

And I'm not even trying to snoop here. These are public meetings conducted at the table right next to me. When I'm sitting alone, they dominate my aural environment.

Since they're obviously being regarded as public, maybe I'll hit 'record' on my laptop and post some here next time.
2 responses
When I worked as a busboy, we called these people ostriches. The vague thought in their heads is "if I'm not looking at you, you can't hear me".

But in a restaurant, the silent people -- and especially people like busboys looking to clear, or a writer sitting thoughtfully at the next table -- can hear everything. In the restaurant where I worked, we practically blared Vivaldi's four seasons (over and over and over again) all evening, but an attentive person could still hear almost every conversation in the room.

I often over hear people discussing all kinds of things that should not be heard. I loved hearing one guy bashing VCs, had to be sure that he was not talking about my husband. I have heard tid bits at Fraiche yogurt, Univ. Cafe...the walls have ears in Palo Alto!