“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.” ~James Nathan Miller
Last week while waiting in line at a grocery store I overheard (actually purposefully eavesdropped on) two older gentlemen in front of me having a conversation about how the art of conversation was lost. It was funny watching them. At first they were just standing there facing the register. They were both visibly getting a little antsy at the delay occurring with the lady checking out. Then one of them made a casual remark, the other replied, the one asked the others name and they discovered they both knew each other. From there a conversation was born and they were quickly distracted from the delay at hand. As I listened in I completely agreed with them, the art of conversation has been lost, in my opinion, mainly due to technology. Of course I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of walking around with my nose in my iPhone while grocery shopping.
Last night we decided to do take-out at Johnny Angel’s for dinner and I was the lucky one that ran the errand. Normally I’d mean that sarcastically but I do honestly believe I was the lucky one this time. After I ordered our food I sat down to wait and, as is the norm when I find myself with a few extra moments, pulled out my phone to check e-mail, facebook and read a few pages of my current book. Before I became fully engrossed in this public avoidance technique an elderly gentlemen walked up and out of the blue said, “I’m just waiting for my chicken sandwich”. At first the thought ran through my head that I wasn’t even looking around I obviously had my nose in my phone, how funny that he would start talking to me. I’m such a brat sometimes… I instantly let go of that nastiness and smiled and listened as he talked about how great the chicken was and the produce was so fresh, then asked me if I’d ever had it. Of course I had and I too love it. The conversation then led to whether we lived here in Skaneateles, we both did, and I elaborated that we’d moved here when our first daughter started kindergarten. This led to him asking where I was from and in the end he shared that he had just come from a funeral that took place in Binghamton which is where we lived before moving to the Syracuse area.
“____ your chicken sandwich is ready,” said the lady behind the counter. I’ve forgotten his name already.
And that quickly the conversation was to come to an end. He looked at me and said, “Nice to meet you” to which I replied, “Have a good evening” and he turned and walked out. I sat there a while longer before my food was ready and found myself thinking about him and how easily he just walked up and started talking. It took so little effort but was the impetus for a nice exchange between two people who would otherwise have spent that 5 minutes or so alone. He left to go home with his single sandwich and I left to go home back to my family. It made me think of whether he lived by himself. Was he going home to spend the evening alone after a day at a funeral for a beloved friend? Maybe not but either way it made me appreciate that I met him and that we had shared a few words while waiting.