Everybody's talking at me...
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
by Bryon Turcotte
July 12, 2009, 3:55 PM
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
George Berkeley's philosophy makes perfect sense to me. Sometimes I wish I could take this philosophy, twist the wordage selfishly and make it my personal "creed". I think it would read: "If my attention span fades in our conversation and shows signs that I don't care, will you continue talking?" Extensive testing in my lab over countless hours says "Yes" the babbling will go on. It never ceases to amaze me that some people will talk just to hear sound come from their mouths or feel they need to fill the void of silence. They must assume that the silent void will suddenly become a black hole sucking them into oblivion if they don't fill it with lots and lots of words.
I'm not one of those people. I love the void of silence. It is comforting. In fact I don't mind sitting, eating, or just thinking in dead silence. Silence is good. Silence is golden. I don't need to talk all the time to make myself feel like I'm contributing to some social cause greater than myself. I'm fine with keeping my pie hole shut until it is extremely necessary to speak. Let there be no mistake, I can have an intelligent conversation with the best of them. Sometimes I can even sound like the smartest guy in the room. It's the rambling chatter, the stories leading nowhere, the "guess what I did last night?", the "wanna hear a joke?", the "do you know what my brother told me?", and the "guess what I did today at work?" babble I can't seem to handle.
When the scenario sneaks up on me and whacks me on the back of the head, I begin to panic like I'm allergic to honey and I just bumped into Winnie the Pooh. These pseudo conversations usually start with "Um","Ya know" or "Guess what" followed by an introduction to the subject I can barely understand. If I was on a journey and these were road signs they would most likely read, "Dead End", "Danger: Bridge Out","Falling Rocks" or something else that would make you want to stick around. Once you pass the warnings and ignore the dangers, there is no turning back. I can then see clearly like an oncoming train one hundred cars strong. You know those trains? The trains you wait thirty minutes to pass just when you need to get somewhere in a hurry. The mouth opens and words begin flying everywhere. If I'm not interested within the first minute I'm already looking for the emergency exits.
At first I naturally try to act engaged and interested. I nod my head in agreement. I may even say "Yes" or "Man, that's interesting" to give the impression that I'm going forward for the long haul but I always drift and wish for a fire alarm or a phone call when the exchange lasts more than 10 minutes. Obviously reaching some sort of a point would keep me interested. By this time the air raid horns in my mind are blasting and I find myself wanting to say "Is this road leading somewhere?" or "(yawn) Sorry, you lost me a long time ago" or "Boy, it sure gets dark early these days..." or "Jeeze, I wish they made something for diarrhea of the mouth, don't you?" just to shoot up a figurative flare that I have reached my limit. Unfortunately, I save that level of tact for those I really dislike even when their mouths are shut. It can work beautifully or horribly, so firing that weapon must be done with extreme caution. You don't want to blow the wrong person's head off with just a warning shot.
Harry Nilsson's wrote a song that makes more sense to me at this point in my life than it ever did.
It explains how I feel about this subject in a few, short sentences:
Everybody's talking at me.
I don't hear a word they're saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
People stopping staring,
I can't see their faces,
Only the shadows of their eyes.
Does all of this make me a bad person? Am I wrong to want to get to the point, say what I mean, and walk away when my attention runs out? Honestly, I used to be one of them. I would strike up a conversation with anyone and really enjoy the interaction.
I would then get looks of boredom, lack of interest, and blatant apathy, but I would keep moving forward thinking that I can break this stallion if I just can stay on a little longer. Somewhere on the
road of my adult life I began to look in the rear view mirror and realize that all this talking is wasting precious time.
I was once a good listener and enjoyed hearing what people had to say, but I think I spent too much time listening to the wrong people and let most of the important words and ideas drift past me. At some point I turned off the microphone, stepped down from the podium, and realized that I should take a seat and be quiet. At least from the audience I can listen, learn, nod off, or just get up and walk out.
As I've grown to realize, no one really wanted to hear what I had to say anyway.
It is just a game we feel we need to play on the large field of social acceptance. As for me I will sit on the bench, conserve a little oxygen, drink some Gatorade and watch the game safely while the world verbally tackles itself into brain damage. If the coach decides to throw me in, I will play the best I can and follow all the rules to the best of my ability. Accepting my fate, I can only hope that the plays are short and there is a qualified doctor on the field.
I have a sick feeling someone is going to get hurt. - BT