Talkers, especially the non-stop variety, often make me wish I had a stun gun handy. I do not think of myself as a bad person. But there are times when in the company of a congenitally incessant talker that drastic escape measures seem called for. On a recent trip we were having dinner with some friends when the ‘talker’ at the table looked at her husband and said, “Am I putting you to sleep?” One would think that drooping lids and a chin bobbing up and down against the Adams’s Apple might just be clue enough. As a character in one of my favorite novels once said, “talking is not thinking.” Non-verbal types can be just as exasperating. There is a comfortable middle ground. The key is being tuned into your audience. Unfortunately, too many people are audience averse. As long as they hear themselves they feel as if they are in heaven.
As I drove down the Mass Pike humming James Taylor tunes, chewing on such diverse subjects as the nature of determinism, the roots and parameters of liberty, the mind-brain dichotomy (always a fertile puzzler for me) and, most importantly, my inability to manage diaper changes with any degree of confidence (chalk that up to many previous failures – too loose, backwards, wrong size, etc.), it occurred to me that perhaps it might not be a bad idea to drive off into the darkness all alone with myself and my thoughts more often. The irony here is that while I can stay awake for hours while driving at night, after five o’clock in the evening at home one would be ill-advised to trust me with any but the least cerebrally challenging of tasks. I suppose I could work a bit harder at overcoming my post-dusk uselessness. Trouble is I actually look forward to those moments of couch drowsiness that morph into catnaps of profoundly serene detachment from the self and the world.