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Four Reasons Not to Read in Public

April 27, 2013
English: SVG drawing of a baseball bat.

If you’re reading in public, you might not see some weird guy sneaking up behind you to conk you on the head. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even though I like to read whenever I get the chance, I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable doing so in public (like in a movie theater lobby or a restaurant).  It was like wearing a sign declaring that I was loser(or loner), and I didn’t really want to be obvious about that part of my personality.

This is the great thing about technology like tablets and smart phones; I can read in public now, and instead of being the loner/loser who is reading a book in public, I am a guy with cool new technology checking updates and (maybe) watching porn.

Although reading in public is now more socially acceptable because of technology (people can’t tell that you’re reading a book in public), there are still a few reasons NOT to.

1.  You can get conked on the head.

The world is a dangerous place.  Criminals want to mug you.  Drivers aren’t paying attention (because they’re reading too).  Sidewalks have cracks in them.  Bad things can happen when you’re in public and not paying attention.

If you absolutely must read in public (and I still do, despite what I write), make sure your back is protected.  Lean up against a wall.  Look up once every few seconds (even if you aren’t paying attention, you can still maintain the appearance of vigilance).  And never, ever walk while you’re reading.

These rules also apply to anything technology related, like texting or gaming.

2.  You still might look like a tool.

It used to be that people who read in public were considered losers or recluses or antisocial or socially inept.  Now that we have tablets and smart phones, we can read in public and nobody knows what we’re doing.

However, people who spend too much time on their phones (or tablets) while in public are considered to be tools.  This causes a bit of a dilemma.  If you’re caught reading a book in public, you’re a loser.  If you spend too much time playing with your pad in public, you’re a tool.  Is it better to be a loser or a tool?  Either way, reading too much in public can cause others (who don’t read very much) to see you in a negative way.

3.  You get interrupted.

I dislike getting interrupted while I read.  I dislike getting interrupted while I’m concentrating on anything.  If I’m going to read in public, I choose something that I don’t have to concentrate on, so I don’t overreact when I’m inevitably interrupted.

There are numerous ways to get interrupted while reading in public.  Somebody you know might start talking to you.  Somebody you don’t know might start talking to you.  Somebody you don’t know might conk you on the head.  Somebody might ask you to take a picture of them.  Somebody might call you on your phone while you’re reading on it (that can also happen in private).  If you’re going to read in public, prepare to be interrupted.

If you absolutely must concentrate on something, you’d probably better not read it in public.

4.  You might miss something interesting going on around you.

I’m not talking about beautiful sunrises or ocean views.  Those are nice, but most of us will appreciate those when the opportunity comes around.  I’m talking about stuff to video.

Just last month while I was reading in public, I missed out on seeing a minor car accident.  It was minor, so nobody got hurt, but then the two drivers got into a very loud and very interesting argument.  Somebody else nearby videoed the conflict, but I didn’t.  If two people are arguing and threatening violence upon each other, the last thing I’d want to do is to turn myself into their common enemy.

Last week I missed a confrontation between a Labrador and an army of dive-bombing birds.   If I hadn’t been reading in the park, I would have noticed it sooner and maybe have gotten some great animals vs. animal footage.  Instead, all I got was a dog barking (seemingly) at nothing.

A few months ago I was reading in public while my daughter watched a cat stuck in a tree.  If I had been paying attention, I would have captured a death defying leap from one tree to another, followed by a dazzling fall and miraculously safe recovery, with my family cheering in the background (to be later viewed by millions on YouTube).  Instead, all I have is a cat fleeing from our obnoxious cheering.

Stupid reading in public!

As much as I love reading (I don’t care if I look like a tool anymore), I don’t want to get conked on the head, I don’t want to get interrupted , and I really don’t want to miss out on videoing cool stuff happening around me.  So when you decide to read in public (even though you probably shouldn’t), just remember to keep your back to a wall, stay vigilant,  be emotionally ready to get interrupted, and always have your camcorder ready to roll.


And if you absolutely must read in public, it might as well be this!

Now available on Amazon!

Now available on Amazon!

  1. I would (and do) read anywhere. If I have something to read in front of me while I’m engaged in a conversation, I have to make a conscious effort to stop myself from drifting into reading. The only times I’d never read is when I’m sleeping, driving, or showering; every other time is fair game.

    • The only times you don’t read are the same times I don’t read, but it’s kind of ironic because those are also the times (sleeping, driving, showering) when we’re least likely to get conked on the head. I’d love to be able to read while I’m showering. Maybe there are water-proof tablets/ereaders around and I don’t know about them.

      • I’m pretty sure there are water-proof tablets out there, but I’m not looking forward to getting one, because showering serves as my thinking/writing time.

  2. Gee, And I always thought I looked cool reading in public. Now that’s a real loser! Read on!

    • YOU might look cool when you read in public (it’s possible), but I don’t. Luckily, I’m too old to care about being cool anymore, so that won’t be the reason that stops me. Missing the cat in the tree… THAT bugs me!

  3. I love reading on the bus; it’s my main reading time. I dare the guy (or girl) who tries to conk me on the head then.

    • You read on the bus? The buses where you live must be different from the buses where I live because I wouldn’t read on a bus unless I was wearing Iron Man’s helmet.

      • The buses here are quite peaceful, for the most part. A bit too peaceful sometimes, since I usually doze while reading in the afternoons on the way home.

  4. I read (and write on) on the train, with a really old lap-top, not cool new technology. Now that’s guaranteed to make you look like a tool. Mind you, no-one would ever want to steal it and if I didn’t I’d fall asleep and missing my stop would really look bad. Sometimes, you just have to accept the inevitable and look stupid 🙂

    • Maybe having an old laptop decreases your chances of getting conked on the head while reading in public. I don’t know. I haven’t seen any studies yet. Or maybe I’m just paranoid about getting conked on the head.

      • My commute is up in the North of Scotland, fairly peaceful and quiet, so maybe I’ve developed a false sense of security. Nothing wrong with a bit of paranoia every now and then 🙂

  5. I was told that I would have got further ahead at one job I had if I spent more time at the bar than reading at lunch time. The irony is that I like to drink too. My coworkers never gave me a chance to prove it since they caught me reading.

    • Aaaargh! You got stereotyped! I got around that by being able to talk about football. I’ve learned that if I talk about football enough, most peers and coworkers overlook my reading in public.

  6. I love to read constantly. However, the fear that someone will knock me down and run away with my Kindle freaks me out. The bus can be a dangerous place, man.

    • At least if you’re just reading a paperback book on the bus, if somebody conks you on the head, they won’t run off with your book. But a Kindle? You get conked, AND you lose your entire library! That stinks!

  7. i was just curious to where mp3’s stand. It seems like it would be a safe disguise to listen to books instead.

    • Listening to a book in public is probably better than physically reading in public. It’s much easier to keep your eyes on your surroundings, so it’s safer, and you can still take cool videos if something interesting happens around you.

  8. At first I didn’t like reading in public because I would get distracted by noises, people, scenery. Then I discovered its great because it helps me tune out distractions and helps me focus. It’s like Kobe playing in front of 20,000 people but in his mind he is in a empty gym. So, when I’m in public reading, in my head I’m in a empty library.

  9. Ariana permalink

    Love the tone of your writing! I’m from NY and there are PLENTY of people who do this for attention. I saw this girl last year that was standing, holding on to the rail with headphones on reading a book (in rush hour)! The things people do to get attention 😛

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