This morning, as I sat in a waiting room waiting for my name to be called, I was watching the other people waiting around me. It was obvious that the office mainly caters to elderly patients. Robert Young was spouting his wisdom on rerun after rerun of Father Knows Best, and 5 elderly couples sat around, half in dark sunglasses, chatting up a storm. I wondered if they knew each other somehow because they were talking of places and people’s names, and other things that seemed to link them.
As I listened to them talk about yesterday’s political antics, and how early they got up to get to Nashville, and what type of cataracts their spouses had, I realized that most likely this group of people didn’t know each other. I think they just had some things in common and were sharing out of that commonality. As I sat there, I wondered what body language I was giving off that made them exclude me from the conversation.
It could have been that I was sitting in back of them, in a massage chair, with my eyes closed and enjoying a heavenly back rub. It could have been that I didn’t look like I had a commonality with their experiences there; after all, I wasn’t wearing my black sunglasses. It could have been that I was giving off a signal to leave me alone at such an early hour. Probably some of all three. But it made me realize the art of conversation is not in knowing the person you’re talking with; it may be as simple as asking questions that get a topic going.
Some of their topics were not ones I would have ever started. I surely didn’t agree with their political views, but I’m much too polite to argue with an elderly stranger. Some of their topics were not ones I could have joined: types of food I have never enjoyed, or places in middle Tennessee that I hadn’t been.
I found the dynamic of that waiting room fascinating, but was soon swept away to check my progress with the doc. It did leave me a little nostalgic, though, when comparing today’s tendency to hide behind a smart phone, with a time when people sat around sharing their opinions in such an open fashion, and when fathers knew best.
DAY 140 HOMEWORK: Take some time to observe the conversations around you. Where do you fall in the spectrum of hiding vs. chatting? What patterns do you see?