I particularly enjoy it, most of the time, when I am able to convey my feelings without having to say them. This is even true when the communication is of a particularly trivial matter where it would seem to be no big deal to explain one’s feelings aloud. For example, yesterday afternoon after finishing work I headed to a local restaurant I had not visited for a while and resolved to have a peaceful and quiet dinner where I could read a fair bit, and I ended up finishing a book and reading two more books in the time I was there before returning home. What pleased me the most about the experience, and this is something I talked about as I was leaving with the waiter, was that the waiter was aware that I was so absorbed in my reading that he thought it best not to bother me at all, which I thought to be a noble and worthwhile sentiment, especially since I managed to eat relatively quickly and would have wanted for nothing except a bit more water, but all in all it was a successful effort on his part to judge that I was busy and involved with reading and didn’t have a lot more that I wanted than that.
Not everyone is so perceptive. It is hard, I think, to know when we should interrupt the activities of others and when we should simply leave them be. Being a person of considerable business myself, I suppose that other people may simply judge that I am too distracted by one thing or another that it would be best for them to leave me alone. Certainly I judge that to be the case for others. I am especially disinclined to interrupt other people when I know that they will likely have some sort of long harangue for me in which they attempt to speak out the words that they have not had the chance to say to someone, anyone, over the course of the day. Perhaps this is uncharitable of me to say so, even if I can imagine that some people are as unwilling to listen to my torrent of words as well, and so they respond in kind. Sometimes we are paid in the currency of interpersonal communication that we pay others in, sometimes as speech, sometimes as silence, and sometimes as attempts to judge based on nonverbal communication that not everyone is aware is being communicated.
Had I not been absorbed in my very interesting reading (reviews forthcoming), I would likely have used an opportunity like last night to engage in people watching, as there was plenty worthwhile to see. As it happens, last night was a good opportunity, even for one who was reading as devotedly as I was, to notice a variety of interesting occurrences. For example, a group of elderly people lacking in mobility sat in a table near me and proceeded to talk with each other about non-alcoholic beers and the lack of knowledge of an attractive young waitress in alcoholic options. She said she was not yet twenty-one, that much was obvious, but she might have been fifteen or sixteen for as young as she looked, and the group seemed to have been demanding too much for her to be an expert on the restaurant’s drink selection. Later on, toward the end of my visit, a different group sat at that table, which included a couple with two small girls. One of the girls continually led her mother on a chase around the restaurant, which seemed to annoy the mother to no end, and the older daughter kept on telling her father “uppy,” urging him to pick her up in language that I have heard from small children myself who speak the same specific kind of language, in even the same tone.
It was a bit alarming to me, actually, to hear the expression said in precisely that way, as I wondered how it was that children learned to say it, and how common it would be for someone to hear two unrelated (so far as I know) children use the same tone and expression to ask a request to be picked up by a friendly adult, and where it is that they learned how to say it that way. To the child who said it, she was perhaps thinking herself being natural, and it would seem to be impossible to dig into the origins of that sort of expression. We tend to think of children learning from those around them, but how does one learn what approach to use except through trial and error and an exploration of one’s native personality? Sometimes, I suppose, people hit upon the same solutions to the problem of communicating clearly and concisely, but it still remarkable to me to hear that done in such a fashion, even if it would not have been something I would have been able to explain to the small child in a way that she likely would have been able to understand. If we barely understand ourselves, how can we expect others to be able to easily understand us when we say next to nothing at all?