I’ve noticed groups of people in certain venues silently queue up and only speak in hushed tones when circumstances force human interaction. You know what I’m talking about: grocery lines, doctors’ waiting areas, banks…those places in which people try very hard to avoid eye contact. There are times when banks are quieter than a mortuary.
I also admit I’m one who likes to see if I can squeeze some fun from the tedium of waiting in line. If the queue at the bank is a long one, I’m liable to call out, “Send for more checkers!” and then wait for a reaction…not from the cashiers where I bank…they’ve gotten used to me…but from the queue. (Or should that be queuers? Is queue plural already? Someone should look that up.)
I find mild satisfaction when the line stirs and people make eye contact. Sometimes they smile or frown at the noisy one. Even frowns are better than deadpan faces.
The business of kick starting conversations started for me in the waiting area of a quick-lube. A half dozen people were sitting silently in hard plastic chairs, reading stuff…newspapers, books, grease-smudged car magazines…each trying hard not to touch elbows.
I was working, scribbling notes on a draft manuscript when I caught a man two chairs down trying to sneak a peek. He looked quickly away, trying to pretend he wasn’t being nosy. (I guess he couldn’t help himself because genius was just dripping from the pages.)
The person sitting between us was called to the desk to pay the quick-lube guys, and the empty chair gave me and my nosy neighbor a more comfortable distance.
Just on a whim, I put the manuscript back in its folder (where maybe it should have stayed forever) and asked, “How’s your book coming?” He looked surprised for half a second, and then answered, “Actually, it’s a play.”
Alas, I find only three writers among every five people on whom I spring this question. And the non-writers often respond with, “I don’t write, but Dad (or some other relative…it’s a fill in the blank response) wrote a good book that I’d like to see in print.”
I don’t know whether to be encouraged or discouraged by the discovery that only sixty percent of the citizens of the country are writing books, but if you want to check my statistics, try asking a fellow passenger or fellow queuer, “How’s your book coming?”