As we all know each spouse has their strengths and weaknesses.
I have learned over the last several years that at time us Davidson men are likely a little too reserved. We think things through maybe a little too completely. We balk in social situations when we could forge forward.
This thoughtful consideration of not only what we say and do but also how things will be HEARD and SEEN does generally serve us well, but sometimes may be too much.
Luckily for me I have a wife of a very different stripe.
I think it is summed up best in her own words, “Tay you know how most kids are taught NOT to talk to strangers, well my dad taught us TO talk to strangers.”
Years ago I balked or even interrupted when my blushing bride would call out across a restaurant for our waiter or grabbed random strangers to ask even randomer questions, but over the years I became comfortable with her judgment and most recently would even nonchalantly throw her at situation that I wasn’t brave enough to stick my own foot into.
Remember those “Mikey will eat it!” commercials? It’s a similar concept. I’m uncomfortable so I slyly (or not so slyly) engage my wife’s general lack of inhibition to do what I likely should just do myself.
NOTE: If you’re now concerned for my safety when she gets home, you can sleep soundly, I admitted my little cowardly ploy to her several months ago.
This brings us to lunch today…
As I sat at the bar grabbing a quick bite at a local pub after a tutoring session, the older gentleman seated to my left engaged me about my iPad and the current state of electronics in general. As a Davidson man, this conversation was not on my pre-envisioned itinerary of what lunch would entail, and didn’t fit into my reading/writing priorities for this period of time.
I politely chatted, but did not actively work to further the conversation.
Admittedly he did have some pretty interesting things to say (even clearly 5-6 beers in as he was) but I certainly didn’t encourage a lengthy exchange.
My lunch arrived, and as I sat, looking at a research paper from the Cato Institute, my wife’s lovely voice came into my head, “You know, you’re really short with people on the phone and I think they can hear it. It sounds like you’re doing nothing but trying to get off the line while you’re talking to them.”
If that’s ever happened to any of you, my apologies, I’ve never really liked talking on the phone and I think it comes across. I AM working on it.
That brings us back to my leather jacketed friend at the bar… I couldn’t think of any reason to be short with this nice guy who had made an effort to talk to me when he saw me sit down. I made the decision that I would talk to him. I was about to have an unexpected but great conversation with a guy I was sure was going to turn out to be really cool. Older man, big college/frat/service ring on his finger, bearded, willing to chat with strangers and the bartender… looked like most Jimmy Buffet fans I know… What could go wrong?
I glanced over and he was intently writing on a piece of paper in front of him. I tried to grab a look and the little bit I could see was about a microbrew beer. It looked like he was taking notes on what hoppy brew he liked.
I maybe should have noticed that the beverage comments were in a distinctly outlined little box separated from the rest of the page…
So I folded away my iPad, put my phone down, took a quick drink and turned toward this guy that I knew was going to be an interesting new friend.
I said, “Not to be nosey, but may I ask what you’re writing?”
Expectations are now that I am going to hear about how he is a beer connoisseur that keeps a really interesting and detailed journal and “Oh, by the way…” there’s this secret little amazing Tucson brew-pub that only he and other select beer-o-philes know of but will take and introduce me!
He replies, “I’m writing a letter to my daughter to tell her that I’m dying.”
Him, “I have cancer.”
I wish I could tell you that the conversation then turned into a life affirming exploration of values and family relationships… Unfortunately the truth was much more in line with uncomfortable pauses, some definitely confrontational tones and an unspoken implication that he was sorry I sat down next to him.
Not to say that there wasn’t some additional “productive” conversing. I learned his daughter is 22, that he hasn’t seen her since she was 8 (arrrgh), that he is a former marine, this is the second time he’s lived in Tucson (because he likes our gun laws), that he owns a bunch of rifles (I interjected that I was a big 2nd Amendment fan, but that actually backfired when it turned out I didn’t know that a Ruger .338 was a rifle. Sorry, but I’ve only ever fired Ruger handguns!).
This all finally devolved into his not-an-inside-voice monologue regarding the Newtown tragedy and who’s REALLY at fault.
Yeah, so a bit clobbered I slunk back to the safety of my computer screen while he went to chat up the brunette behind us whose boyfriend hadn’t shown up yet.
In the end I concluded this random-acts-of-openness thing isn’t as easy as my adept wife sometimes makes it look and I need LOTS more practice. On the bright side, every one of y’all should definitely strike up some random conversations this week… I’ve clearly taken the worst of it and you can only do better from here. If I can try it, so can you 🙂
Have some courage, have some conversations and have a great week full of unexpected encounters!