The Forgotten Art of Simple Conversation

Man, oh man, what a crazy few days I’ve had, you guys. I’ve gotten exactly squat done writing-wise in the last week or so.

It all began Thursday night, when this happened:

treedown

This is the view the morning after One Bad Mother of a thunderstorm came rolling through with 89mph winds. It’s a huge chunk of a maple tree that was convinced by the strong wind that maybe it would enjoy life in the front yard rather than the backyard it had called home for decades. There had been a wooden fence there.

tree

frontview

Stuff like this happened all over the city; it wasn’t just me. Unfortunately, power poles also lost their fight against the fierce winds, snapping like twigs and cutting power to over 20,000 people at one point in the process. Our power went out around 7pm Thursday night.

We knew our line was okay, and even though it was very dark, it appeared that the damage was not all that bad in my neighborhood. Luckily, our devices were fully charged, so my wife and I spent the evening playing games and joking on Facebook about the storm. We had faith power would be back on soon, if not by the time we went to bed then sometime later in the night.

It didn’t come back on.

Being working stiffs with no other choice, we arose the next morning after a sweaty, muggy, crappy night’s sleep and went to work. News began to travel fast that people would be without power until late Friday night. Then it was Saturday around noon. Then it was by late Sunday. Then it was by Monday evening. I knew it would be different for different people, depending on their circumstances, but we began to face the possibility we might be without electricity all weekend.

By the time I came home Friday evening after a stressful day at work (in more ways than one), our house was an oven. We wisely decided that we would be slightly more comfortable in our basement, and took our flashlights and candles down to spend the night.

To compound the mounting stress, our garage door was acting wonky (technical term). It wouldn’t go all the way down, so I decided to have a look at it – Bad Idea #1. Then I thought I saw how to get the door down, I just needed to mess with it for a minute – Bad Idea #2. Ten minutes later, I had the garage door down, but was unable to get it up again. We had planned on going for a drive later to enjoy some air conditioning and charge up our phones, but no. We were trapped and powerless in our powerless home.

But then, a funny thing happened: we started talking.

Let me explain.

We talk to each other every night. Glancing up from our phones or tablets, between sending lame tweets (me) and between levels of Candy Crush (her). During commercials, between writing and blogging. Talking is always squeezed in between other things.

But on this night, with our phones dwindling away and no way to charge them, we put our mobile devices down and just…talked. We bitched about our day at work, talked about movies coming out, my favorite new TV show (Hannibal, if you’re interested), new music we wanted to check out. It was no deep philosophical stuff about the meaning of life; it was actually the same kinds of things we talk about every day. This time, though, there was a difference – we were both listening to each other. Really listening. We sat in our candle-lit basement and talked for hours. At eight o’clock we wondered how we’d kill the time; at midnight we wondered where the time had gone.

On Saturday, I called a professional to fix the garage door – Good Idea! We had been bracing for the worst, but were fortunate enough to get our power restored around 4:30pm Saturday. We did two things right away – turn on the a/c, and plug in our phones. I know, I know…but we had to charge them in case the power went out again. Luckily, it didn’t. We spent Sunday trying to relax and enjoy the conveniences we take for granted all too often. But I was reminded of something, and it seems silly that it took being literally trapped in my home to help me remember.

Sometimes it’s good to put your phone down and just sit and talk. And really listen.

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106 thoughts on “The Forgotten Art of Simple Conversation

  1. “Talking is always squeezed in between other things.” So so true. We’re so busy being social, we’ve forgotten the art of conversing.

    I think, we’ve also forgotten the art of writing. Connected as I’m through Twitter, FB and blogs, I’m still partial to the old fashioned way of doing things..like writing letters:-)

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  3. This post ringed true to me, the candy crush and constant texting, I asked my husband if we could sit outside on Friday night, just so we could talk, no phones! We need to put the phones away and reconnect! Great post.

  4. Your writing coupled with those pictures made me imagine the whole incident in my mind and turned out to have the clarity of a youtube video. I loved the fact that you guys talked. After all marriage was meant for companionship. Do continue . . .

  5. It’s so easy to get lost in distraction, and so important to take the time to really listen to each other, look at each other, talk to each other! Poignant post!

  6. I have had a similar experience when on a wind surfing holiday in Greece. I was shaken up one morning to discover the walls and furniture were having a disco dance in my bedroom. I realized what was going on, grabbed a sheet and ran straight out. It was about 5.30am, and as I stumbled into the open air, I looked around to discover that I was the only person not perfectly attired. Every one else had stood in that shaking building, combing their hair, putting on socks, tying up their shoe laces.

    During that fateful morning,none of the buildings collapsed, but, the port slid into the sea, there were cracks in all the roads, and 8 people lost their lives. Caroline

    countrygardengifts blog

    http://www.countrygardengifts.co.uk

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  8. Loved this! I frequently feel like my husband, in fact my whole family and I do not truly talk or connect because of all of our electronic stuff and the “socializing,” (texting, reading blogs, using various other communication methods) that occurs when we have our phones or iPads in our hands. How I would love to institute a time for electronics to be put away so that our family could really interact with one another—-but I think I would be run out on a rail if I even suggested it!:-(

  9. So glad this was Freshly Pressed! That is how I found it. Good read, for sure.
    When visiting family in rural Missouri I became part of small gatherings in which the only purpose – and activity – was conversing. At first I wondered about whether or not this was all that was going to happen… then I listened, and responded, and rediscovered an entirely new form of entertainment for adults: conversing!
    I live in a multi-generational household now and we are all hooked up with devices. Techie paradise. But we make it a habit to set it all aside when we share a meal, or when seated outside in the fresh air, just “visiting” with whoever else is there. “Talk story” as they say in some parts of the country. It creates the ties that bond, dontcha think?

  10. I recently went through the same thing with my sister. The power was out for four days. The other greatest result was the neighbors all started gathering and talking outside to each other! She got to know people she’d lived next to for years, whom she’d barely spoken to. I flew home the day before the power was on. I sent her a text to see how she was doing. She said they were all having so much fun they didn’t want to come in from “playing”. How’s that for ya. Nothin’ like a simple storm to get us to start talking again. 🙂

  11. This reminds me of the fear I have for the future. I realize the possibility of me getting immersed in technology to the point where I forget how to interact. Even now I sometimes find that after sitting at a computer for hours on end I begin walking and it takes some getting used to for a minute.

    I see this with the phones. I have yet to get a smartphone yet I am already so immersed in technology. I realize the need to answer emails more often- though perhaps not as often as my friend who responds every ten minutes. I wonder about balance and sight and retaining a tangible personality.

    My fondest memories have been in times of interaction- sparking a bonfire with friends, swimming, etc.. Whereas my memories in front of the screen are vague and disconnected.

  12. I liked your post. I find I am losing out on talking as now my fingers are talking on the internet to people who I really do not know. Some of these people are fascinating, like yourself, and some are giving out to much information about themselves. It gets a little unnerving to hear about ex-druggies and released criminals trying to contact you for a little bread. Have you found the same problem?

    1. I don’t have any issues with unwanted people trying to contact me yet. One thing I was thinking about recently was that since I started my blog I’ve made more friends in cyberspace than I have in the real world in the past few years.

      1. Same with me! I do lots of solitary work while painting or writing so my primary method of “meeting” people is on the web. I’m really liking many of those I’ve become acquainted with. Wish they lived next door so we could share a glass of wine and talk about nothing 🙂

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