Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You’re giving me a headache in my eye.

How do you feel about talking?

I know that’s a strange question, but think about it for a second.

Do you like to talk? Do you like to listen to others talking? When is your favorite time for talking, and when do you absolutely despise any type of verbal exchange, regardless of how minimal?

Yesterday, I sat in a large meeting. As fifteen minutes became a half-hour, as a half-hour became an hour, I realized that nothing was accomplished that couldn’t have been conveyed in a two-paragraph email. I counted the people, a quirky meeting habit of mine, and twenty-three were in attendance.

That’s twenty-three “human hours,” almost a calendar day, spent watching one or two people listening to themselves talking. For some reason, work meetings have been given the cultural go-ahead to abide more meaningless chatter than any other forum known to humanity. And when it’s finally time to end a meeting, no one knows how. Usually, a prolonged silence is followed by someone finally saying, “Thanks,” standing up and shuffling out. I think some feel that being the first to leave a meeting is a sign of weakness, that you've turned in your meeting torch.

Depending on the activity, varying degrees of conversation are acceptable. What’s society’s prescribed amount of talking at funerals? How about during the national anthem? Or a colonoscopy?

I’m afraid I haven’t the answers.

When two men stand at the urinal, virtually no talk is allowed, especially if no divider wall provides a buffer between the “dueling banjos.” If a guy feels comfortable enough to speak to his voidmate, it’s barely above a whisper, since we can't ascertain the owner of those Florsheims in the stall next door. They are shiny and well-maintained, signifying the feet of a manager, and breaking bathroom silence, at least verbally, is frowned upon.

I've had a couple of chance lavatory encounters with an unfortunate fellow who requires the flow of conversation to facilitate other flows. I wonder if he’d talk to himself if I weren’t in there. Would he irately look down and say, “Look, you work for me, and when I say go, I mean go. Oh, jeez, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. You know you’re my best friend, so I'm just going to relax and let you tell me when you're ready, buddy. Shhh! Someone’s coming.”

Guys are weird.

Not only do physical settings affect the quantity of conversation, but so does the passage of time. How many long-standing relationships, which begin with two people talking all night, so excited and so stimulated, evolve into that elderly couple at Applebee’s who sit at the same booth, addressing nothing but the Sunday paper?

Some would contend that that couple knows each other so well that they can communicate non verbally. I hope so, because I don’t want someone to look at my wife and me in twenty years, and say, “Isn’t it cute how she understands his grunts?”

I guess the lesson here is that, unless you’ve got something meaningful to say, less is more. At my mom’s memorial service, I probably heard “she’s in a better place” twelve times. I wanted to say, “Impossible. What’s better than a church fellowship hall filled with mourning family members, Folgers Crystals and egg salad?”

So, from this point forward, patience is the key. I’ve been writing this drivel for a year-and-a-half, so what gives me the right to judge other blatherers? If someone has something to say, I’m going to let them talk as much as they want. I’ll try not to interrupt and let their streams of consciousness continue unencumbered.

But, to keep chatter to a minimum, I’m going to request decorative urinals for the conference rooms.

1 comment :

  1. Your blog was mentioned here:http://consiliencia.blogspot.com/2010/02/fazer-e-falar.html