This 60-something year old guy sitting next to me is totally talking to himself. He’s quite animated too. Full on crazy. Crazy, but not stupid. He’s sporting a keen interest in etymology. He says a word, then spells it out loud, then he says the word in French and Spanish. He spells those out too. Then he draws connections to similar themed words. He just jumped from ‘weather’ to ‘time’. “Newt Gingrich just punched out Mitt Romney. Sacked. Heidi Crumb. Swiss. Heidi. That’s German. This is not egotism either.”
At first I was kind of annoyed with the guy, but when it became clear that he didn’t care if I was paying him attention or not, I felt comfortable settling in for a listen.
In a way he reminds me of myself. He sounds just like my inner voice most of the time, jumping rapidly from thought to thought to thought. Most of us keep that voice internal. Not this guy. You never have to worry about what he’s thinking. It’s refreshing.
I briefly engaged him in conversation, and he started talking to me about the history of Greece, the Romans, Latin, and its movement across Europe, the English Channel, or ‘La Manche’ as he said, eventually becoming the British Empire.
Then the coffee shop people just kicked him out.
I felt bad, but somewhat relieved at the same time. You open the tap, and there’s no shutting it down. They asked me if he was bothering me, and I said he’s fine. I guess my body language communicated otherwise – or perhaps they just wanted him gone.
Starting conversations with perfect strangers in a coffee shop is a delicate process. It’s a game. You throw the ball, the other person catches, then that person may choose to throw it back. Too often, people don’t know when to end the game – when to quit throwing balls. Thus, some of the most interesting conversations in percolation, never see the light of day. It’s better to NOT talk in the first place, than to end a conversation uncomfortably. Sad.