My difficulty with silence

It’s not that I like to hear myself speak. In fact, I can’t really stand my voice. I just find it impossible to sit in silence. Twitter helps a lot. It’s basically a really slow conversation where people put up with you saying REALLY random things. The right people do, anyway.

Sometimes, though I have to sit around actual people, and they are not as understanding. After about 20 minutes, we’ve usually ran through the polite topics like weather, geographic origin, and curriculum vitae (CV was inappropriate until I got a Masters, now I’m ready for that sucker). They’ve started into the danger topics like politics, religion, and parenting advice.  I don’t mind those topics, so much, but it’s generally disappointing, as my views correspond to virtually no one else’s.

So, instead of diving into the talk about how they are more ‘spiritual’ than ‘religious’, I start saying… odd things. Not disturbing odd things, just really non-sequitur things that rely on having a cultural history that vaguely parallels mine. I’m not citing Kierkegaard and discussing the ramifications of personal choice in the context of a media-driven narrative that encourages us all to conform…  I’m just basically making a lot of Monty Python and Kung Fu Hustle references.

This would all be fine if I was just a bit more self-absorbed. In fact, I’m generally having fun with this. I think I’m hilarious. Soon, however, I realize that these other people are just not that into deciphering amusing juxtapositions of Bill Gates and Bill Hicks quotes from the 90s. Then the trouble begins. ‘They don’t get it’, I think, ‘stop talking’. I assume they’ll jump back in with more discussion of limiting tv time for their kids, illegal immigration, or … whatever the hell, but they don’t.

We sit there in silence for a while. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know where to look. It’s horrible, and I’m sure it’s my fault. It probably is my fault. If I’m lucky, they’ll bring out a phone to browse, or our bus will careen off a cliff. Anything to cut the tension. Somehow, at the end, we all express pleasantries, and sometimes they even ask to hang out again.

I just don’t get it. I’m fine with my family. I’m fine alone. I’m fine in a big group, anything that lets me move along rapidly and avoid a silence shared with a quasi-stranger. Even this, I’m ok with… but I have kids. They’re getting to the age where they’re worrying about that silence in their life, as well, and asking ME how to deal with it.

Damn you, silence. I don’t know what to tell them. I managed to explain death, sex, war, mean people, and Star Wars. This shouldn’t stump me. So, we sit there, and the silence starts to creep into the conversation… Then, one of us farts, the moment passes, and I realize that would probably have worked in all those awkward conversations.