I did a rare pop-in to a bar near the Viaduct with a new friend (and journalist) and we were soon having our ears assailed - literally - by the loudest, high-decibel women's laughter I've not heard even once anywhere in Europe. Welcome home.
No, they weren't British & Irish Lions supporters. They were our lot: Kiwis. Aged from mid-20s to 40s, six of them. A bit pissed? Hardly. It was two in the afternoon. My friend said I visibly winced every time this shrieking broke out.
The physical effect of this aural assault on eardrums and thence brain could have been measured. This shouldn't normally be a column subject if not for the questions it raises. But next let me get on to television presenters I have seen recently to give this some geographical, perhaps cultural context. No names.
Seems presenters are either briefed - or just feel it helps the image - to laugh, chortle, giggle, guffaw, grin and smirk every few moments. Or this: "Now listen to this. A man got a bill from his library for seven million dollars for overdue books." At first and every glance a computer error, which happens every millisecond. So why mention it?
Because it generates output from a repertoire of feigned shock/horror, and other emotions. This is unique to New Zealand television. Like the loudly laughing women are unique to this country - and probably Australia.
"But even more exciting. We're giving away two tickets to the Eden Park test. They're worth five hundred bucks - each." Wow. They could have been given to two people from a poor area without any fanfare. But no, we had to be told - in emphatic form - how much they were worth.
Television has become more self-referential than ever. I should say, self-reverential. Viewers being told the "EXCITING" news that their colleague has been voted - wait for it - "the hottest new presenter on television". Problem: She is not hot.
Just quite attractive and of course smiles and laughs a lot. An awful lot.
Don't mean to offend but this subjective take on her is none of our business, let alone of any interest. It is pinning medals on their own chests as the only contestants.
The offensive, wholly unfeminine group of women. The preening presenters with their repeated emphasis and irritating - indeed, unwatchable - image-making. The complete lack of voice inflection, instead shouted and bellowed at. It is not who we are as Kiwis.
How we behave in public is not the same as we behave in private.
The 78-year-old Samoan cleaner in my friend's apartment building, who is here this Saturday morning as I write this, is more typical Samoan and with it, one of us. Why? Because he's modest and humble and is probably helping support family, as well being useful in his older years. He's got a work ethic. No ego. He's a Kiwi.
On the train to and from the first test, no groups of female shriekers, no egotists, constantly self-referencing. Just very exuberant Lions supporters (they were quiet on the train home) and humble Kiwi rugby fans excited about the game. At any rugby match Kiwis are way quieter than, say, the French. Except when the ABs score a try and then we're one collective, beautiful, deafening roar.
To have a moment of relevant modesty, I'm often stopped in the street and no, not insulted - now that's enough. Point made. What every one of these people has is that strong Kiwi handshake, of few words, just enough to convey the message, and move on. Leaving me feeling distinctly Kiwi, humbled, gratified.
At my old rugby club in Rotorua, watching the All Blacks play Samoa, every single person there was humble and welcoming to me and my family members. In fact, they were loving. Once the rugby started, they weren't interested in conversation. Rugby makes us all Kiwis.
What's my drawn-out point? Maybe a demand to employ TV presenters who represent us, not just their egos and career aspirations. I'm suggesting it is unfeminine for a woman to laugh so hideously loudly, just as we squirm at the oafish man who laughs loudest at his own bad jokes. How we behave in public is not the same as how we behave in private. Restraint comes in; being part of the collective dignity.
Nothing will change a presenter's views except ratings. The rest of us should confide in a trusted friend what ails us emotionally, confess to nervousness in public, own up to social insecurities, even vanities and hang-ups, and be prepared to be told that being quiet always speaks volumes and modesty really is a virtue.