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Quiet the rumbling rumor mill

Most adults can probably recount at least one instance when they were wrongly judged by appearances. I can think of two such experiences right off the top of my head.

One day while at work in a law office, I received a phone call from my boss’s wife, who knew I was an information junkie — still am. She asked whether I knew the name of the sect whose shaven-head, robe-wearing male members chant and dance in the street.

I answered, “Hare Krishna.” She thanked me and signed off.

Co-workers in the cubicles to my left and right heard only what must have sounded like the Hare Krishna chant, because later they and others buzzed about whether I belonged to the Hare Krishna sect. I reminded them that I was the last person in the office who’d belong to any sect.

My two-word response to a caller’s question was enough to incite gossip.

A less-benign instance of the rumor mill's rumblings happened during the same time period when I was working my way through college and renting an older studio apartment, furnished with a rickety daybed. One Saturday, I agreed to watch a friend’s 4-month-old baby for an hour while she and her husband took care of some business.

When her husband arrived with the baby, he laid him on the daybed and forcefully bounced the bed, causing its springs to erupt in a cacophony of squeaks, creaks, rattles and clanks and its frame to jar the floor. He then left to rejoin his wife, who waited in their car.

The baby survived the clamorous bouncing ordeal, and by the time his parents returned he was asleep.

Two days later, the building manager cornered me, and in a half-whisper he said that the older couple in the apartment below mine had started a fast-spreading rumor that a man visited my apartment for a quickie.

Readers can connect the dots.

Surely, it is wise to refrain from passing on titillating gossip, because chances are it is groundless. Whether it’s the product of someone’s misperception or it originates from someone harboring a grudge, such as an ex-spouse, vicious gossip — rarely stoppable — damages its victim’s reputation.

On hearing malicious gossip about anyone, without knowing its source or validity, we should, with a hand of kindness, wave it away.

Marie Arvette lives in Medford.