I sat down with a coworker for lunch yesterday, and embarked on what I thought was pleasant conversation about all sorts of things: how train station neighborhoods always seem sketchy, how awkward encounters with bums are, his girlfriend's career plans, stuff that's happened to friends of ours, and the food on our plates. A good twenty minutes in, we're talking about how some people are the life of the party while others never say a word. He goes: "You know, sometimes I kinda like when no one says anything. I mean, I don't think it's necessary to constantly be talking over lunch. We're all in the same office all day anyway, so on my break, I want to just finish my plate and chill, nice and quiet. Especially when it's busy". I was very relieved to hear him add that last bit, because as of now things are super calm what with everyone being on summer hiatus. I smiled and said "I'll remember that once September rolls around" and we had a laugh about it, but I still felt a bit self-conscious about having chatted so much when maybe he'd been looking forward to a quiet lunch. I haven't been here long, we don't know each other that well, it seems to me that a silence would have been awkward at this stage. So I made conversation.
Then very early this morning, I'm sitting in a car - passenger's seat, bien sûr. I know they call it the "dead man's seat", which, you know, I'd feel a lot more comfortable with something like "rainbow seat" or "kitten lying in the grass on its back seat" but I guess you have to just go with what's on the buzz table, even if that table has been set by morbid car constructers, still my favorite seat by far - in the early hours, driving along a gorgeous sunset, past foggy fields that almost make you think Belgium can actually be quite pretty, with just the right kind of tune on the radio. A bit groggy from festival jetlag after roaming the streets of Ghent all night, but otherwise feeling excellent. And not saying a word.
I try not to ramble on. I also try not to kill the mood by being silent as the grave. But anything in between that, it's a tough balance to strike. I don't even want to think about all the time, energy and brain cells I've wasted fretting about "should I call? Should I email? Should I send a text? Or just say nothing?" - to talk or not to talk, to say or not to say, to go all contortionist and overanalytical or do just do what you feel like and not give a hoot about whether you might come off as too eager/loud/quiet. Bah.
Luckily, you don't need words to connect to people, as demonstrated on http://www.pieples.com/index.php. These pictures and drawings took form at the Cactus Festival - I didn't notice anything like this going on when I was there, but then, I was probably too busy chatting about what bands I wanted to see and how you can't just make up new rules in the middle of a game.