This recent think-piece in The New York Times argues that we have:
At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates…
We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.
One of the rituals my husband and I enjoy is my driving him to the commuter train station in the morning. It’s only about 10 minutes door to door, but it’s a nice chance to connect and chat before his 40-minute commute and a crazy life working at the Times, one with six meetings every day.
We talk a lot, usually two or three times, briefly, by phone and maybe an hour or two in the evening. That’s a great deal more than many couples, certainly those with multiple children juggling conflicting schedules.
But sitting across the table from someone, sharing a glass of wine or cup of coffee, seems to have become an unimaginable luxury. How else can we ever get to know one another? I’ve had two female friends tell me, only after many years of knowing them, that they had each been sexually abused as a child.
That took a lot of trust and courage. I don’t think most of us would want to share such intimacies only through a computer or phone screen.
I love road trips, six or eight or ten hours in a vehicle with my husband, or friends, or my Dad. You get a lot said, and the silences are companionable.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, (on Virgin Air, maybe the reason for such indie fellow travelers), my outbound flight had a career musician beside me, Homer Flynn, who has spent a long life making very cool music in a band called The Residents. Their Wikipedia entry is huge! We had a great conversation, for more than an hour, about the nature of creativity, about managing a long and productive worklife, about inspiration.
On the flight home — 5.5 hours — I had a similar conversation with my seatmate, a visual artist a little older than I.
Ironically, she’d just opened and started to read a book about introverts and I figured she’d never want to chat. But we discovered we had so much in common we talked the whole way! She had even attended the same East Coast prep school as my mother.
Another flight, from Winnipeg to Vancouver, placed me beside a coach for the Toronto Argonauts, a professional football team. Orlando Steinauer and I had a great time comparing notes on the world of professional sport and professional writing. We found it hard to decide which is more bruising!
As you can see, conversation is my oxygen. I love meeting fun new people and hearing their stories.
It’s why, after 36 years as a journalist, I still enjoy my work — and the comments I get here. I’m endlessly curious about people.
Do you make time in your life now for face to face conversations?
With whom and how often?
If not, do you miss them?