Now hear this: Or, if you prefer, lalalalalala
One of the pleasures of sharing this space with you each week is that I get to do all the talking.
(Well, “pleasure” for me, at least. Your mileage may vary.)
Go ahead, give it a shot ... try and say something to me right now, I’ll wait.
Nope, not a word; or, as Sgt. Carter emphatically used to admoniush Gomer & Co ... I CAN’T HEARRRR YOU! Don’t even have to put my fingers in my ears and burble lalalalalalalalala.
Even, say, were you to put the newspaper down — or, heaven forbid, backspace to a different page on the website — I’d just keep on talking.
The cat would tell you to be thankful for the small reward that you’re just reading at the moment. She (along with others, at home and in the workplace) has the misfortune of actually hearing me talk to myself.
It’s not so bad — former co-workers once made a drinking game out of it — until I start answering myself. Usually that’s when the arguments ensue and those within earshot find themselves in a quandary as to which side of my debate they feign allegiance.
I bring this up for three reasons.
First, given the events of the last week, I have no stomach to join the Chorus of the Usual Suspects talking themselves into the same old do-nothing circles on the issue of gun-death prevention.
Then there was the elevator study that you folks might have read about in the pages (web or paper) of Paul Fattig’s Muted Trumpet, which reported that 66% of those surveyed said they prefer to remain silent in elevators, rather than to spend the average 30-second trip acknowledging another living organism.
Side note: These people obviously weren’t surveyed while in an elevator ... or else they would have said nothing at all to the questioner.
There’s really no third reason, but it’s one of the founding principles of hypothetical realism that all talking points must come in groups of three. I was at risk of being decertified if I’d stopped after the elevator story.
The survey was taken last month in honor of National Talk in an Elevator Day (which, I’m sorry to inform the co-workers listening to me talk to myself, doesn’t earn you a paid day off) by the thyssenkrupp (English translation: “That’s not a typo”) Elevator Company.
Thyssenkrupp researchers determined that the 7 billion elevator trips worldwide that occur on a given day produce 38.5 million hours of silence. (Those of you with young children now know where to find the peace and quiet you’re always wondering whether it’s too much to ask for.)
And while most of us don’t live in elevators, the results of the thyssenkrupp study point to another result that speaks to our daily lives as a whole:
We just don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. To some extent, this has always been the case, but the rise of the machines has allowed our inner Tellers to clam up when in the presence of others.
Families would gather in front of the radio, wheel the television set to the corner of the dining room and, eventually, activate their hand-held devices while chowing down on kale salads ... all in the name of not having to acknowledge the presence of someone 2 feet away, when the voices, pictures and bytes coming at them through automation were so much more hypnotic.
Me, I used to love a TV dinner that consisted of chicken in gravy, with sides of mashed potatoes and peas. (There was also some sort of “dessert” that went untouched, as it had the texture and color of table scraps.)
If I was having the TV dinner, it would be eaten on a TV tray in front of a TV — a symbiotic relationship that resulted in my sprouting Uncle Martin antennae from the top of my head. The company doesn’t make that particular dinner anymore, which over time has led me back to eating at a dining room table for which I’d always assumed the purpose was to make checks for the monthly bills and stack unsolicited, pre-approved life insurance offers.
(Side note: I wonder how many readers didn’t make it this far. Simply decided that it was too nice out to listen to this dolt talk to himself about something they had no interest in hearing. If you’re not there anymore, send an email to the address at end of this week’s cognitive offering.)
As a society, we’ve technologically created so much communicative distance between us that we run and hide behind our virtual worlds and artificial intelligence (and think about that phrase for a 30-second elevator ride) and the ability to discuss has been replace by people not just talking past each other ... but talking without acknowledging or respecting the presence of those around us. (The cat’s female servant says I suffer from “selective hearing loss.”)
Look at our politics ... OK, don’t, can’t blame you ... where the goal no longer is to build consensus or even sway an opposing view — it’s devolved to a primal game-show need to utter, without concern for truth or consequence.
Vast pod-farms of media talking heads leave us cross-eyed and painless with messages, memes and mantras that we then activate on auto-repeat during what used to be called “discussions” about “matters of importance.”
There, I’m done for the week, and I didn’t even have to venture into the mind-controlled wasteland about gun-death prevention. We’ve heard and read enough about that this week to make up our own minds ... those of us who still have them, at least.
Thanks for listening; now, pass the peas and gravy.
All of us here at firstname.lastname@example.org want to take this moment to express our gratitude for the emails and letters received this past week.