Not All Interruptions Are Unwelcome

I am a person of habit, more so than most people.  My ideal experience at a restaurant is where I walk in and everyone knows what I want already and do not have to ask me.  For example, on Mondays I like to head to the Old Spaghetti Warehouse location close to where I work and plop on the bar where the bartender brings me iced tea, plenty of sugar to sweeten it to my specifications, a garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette and a loaf of bread with butter, and then after that more iced tea and chicken parmesan followed after I have finished a book or two by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Nor are my eating habits much more exciting anywhere.  I prefer comfortable and cozy places where I can both read in peace and enjoy interaction with other people at the same time.  Being a social reader, where one reads in public places but tends to prefer an atmosphere of mostly quiet time punctuated by occasional witty repartee, is an odd sort of experience [1].

As it happened today offered a slightly unusual experience.  I had thought that I would be able to get through an entire little book of philosophy, which would not normally be too ambitious of a plan for lunch if one is left alone.  Of course, I was not left alone, as one of the more philosophical of my coworkers with whom I share 4 of the top 5 strengths in our strengths finder decided to begin a detailed discussion that involved such areas as the disagreeable nature of Calvnists, the perspective of the Old Testament on areas of wealth and obedience, the jubilee law, the calendar and its lack of biblical specifications, and so on and so forth.  It was a productive and enjoyable conversation, and while I had originally planned on spending my lunch break reading, it was not an unwelcome interruption from my fairly ordinary patterned existence.  Sometimes it is worthwhile to break beyond the patterns of isolation and engage in thoughtful conversation with those who appreciate the rather intellectual way my mind turns.  I normally do not expect my coworkers to appreciate my extreme nerdiness, and so when it is appreciated it is something rare.

Naturally, I cannot leave this well enough alone.  Most people, perhaps, would not think beyond the enjoyment of a conversation or the irritation of having their plans disrupted.  To be sure, I plan on devoting plenty of time to reading and eating later on, and so the interruption was not one that I found particularly irksome.  It could have, and has been, a lot worse in other situations where people have interrupted me to tel me things rather than ask and converse.  Yet I am not the sort of person who is content to let things rest as they are.  I always have to look deeper and broader, to bring the isolated and fairly mundane experiences of life into a larger pattern where insights can be drawn from them for the purposes of future thought and reflection and perhaps some sort of change of action.  This is who I am, and this is what I do, endlessly plumb the interactions of my life for some sort of insight to help me live better.

How can we tell the difference between welcome and unwelcome interruptions?  Well, if we are doing something we do not particularly care about, an interruption is generally not unwelcome.  I knew a young lady once upon a time who seemed to aimlessly study at a local community college until she found herself married to a gentleman in her mid thirties, where they started a family and appear to be quite happy.  We still converse from time to time.  My reading is not that sort of activity, something that one does without any interest except to pass the time, and there are situations where interruptions to my reading are exceedingly unwelcome, such as when someone tiresome wants to drone on about politics or something equally irritating.  That said, interruptions, at least for me, are not unwelcome if they are genuinely enjoyable interactions.

This ought to make sense.  I am, after all, a social reader.  Some people would prefer reading in a place where no one would be around apart from divine providence, far from anything that could interrupt them.  Other people are sociable and not particularly inclined to read, finding the people around them of so much interest that they hardly think to open a book.  For those of us in the middle, our tendencies to engage with other people are in tension with our desire for repose and thought and reflection.  Both needs must be met close to simultaneously, as isolation is dispiriting but socializing can often be trivial when it does not involve something deeper than mere pleasantries or tiresome discussions about divisive subjects.  When a situation comes where the conversation is more interesting than the book, one can spend some time interacting with thoughtful people, and where that is not the case, there are always more books to read.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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