Thursday 17 October 2013

In praise of the art of conversation

A warm feeling
She shook my hand as we parted ways saying, “Don’t lose your sense of humour.” The phlebotomist had just drawn blood into five vials but we were literally chatting through that event.
Nothing comes more gratifying for me as the stimulation of conversation with strangers. In need to have blood tests done before I meet my consultant next week. The morning saw a deluge of rain, it looked like the makings of a miserable day that I considered postponing my visit to the hospital until Thursday, today.
Just as the afternoon moved into the evening, the sun came out radiantly, it offered the chance of a quick dash to and from the hospital, and so I set forth.
Canes for pains
A lady boarded the bus at the next bus stop and the movement of the bus meant slowly grasping down the aisle, almost too unsteady on her feet before she found a seat and sighed, “Eventually.”
A quipped about having something to hold on to before began taking about the differences between our walking canes, hers with a crook handle and mine without, where we bought our canes, she had hers measured for and the sophistication of canes.
In the ten-minute bus ride, I learnt of her husband, meetings she attends, the wonder of English weather and how it changes, whilst she was told of my living in Amsterdam, the freedom of riding bicycles and my visits to the Canary Islands where I got my cane.
The violence of silence
Spontaneity and engagement made for a pleasant meeting of minds that we exchanged pleasantries that are even more effusive when I got to my bus stop and she wished me well for what I was going to do at the hospital.
Hospitals – the cost of parking, too prohibitive and the fact that the renovations at the hospital I was visiting did not consider making more allowances for parking spaces.
The long tube ride was quiet and without event, until I got to the hospital where I was ushered to the waiting room. The first nurse to say hello when I arrived then came out to get me.
Facing the past
The conversation started with my date of birth, a date I wished was moveable to which she suggested whilst youth was good, retirement was even better.
I regaled her with a story of being recognised by a classmate in a bar in The Hague after 27 years of leaving school, I either maintained my looks or my friend does not suffer from any form of prosopagnosia, I just cannot make out the features of a face without my glasses on.
In her case, it was a friend of her daughter when she lived in Madrid who recognised her on Oxford Street after 15 years of their last meeting.
We relapsed into our various tales of the uncanny, laughing and cheering as my veins filled the vials that if were to expire due to exsanguination that would have been a happy conclusion.
Farewells and smiles
Job done, plaster applied and shirtsleeve pulled down, I buttoned up, put on my jacket, got my hat, strapped on my rucksack and with cane in hand, I bid farewell.
Small talk and the art of conversation, interaction with strangers and the spontaneity of it all, none of my interactions on Social Media gets close to the excitement of proximity and real social interaction, it is why I love travel, chatting to people about the mundane that we soon get to the serious.
We must retain the enriching qualities of face-to-face meetings uncluttered by technological interference and that is part of the beauty and joy of living.

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