It’s Time for Weather Talk

People trapped in the very local elevators of the tall buildings where they work would rather not talk to anyone. They’d rather stare at the changing numbers or surreptitiously glance at their neighbors’ shoes or attire and glance back before being caught staring. However sometimes there’s no choice. Like when one enters the elevator, looking at no one in particular, reaching out for the number of their floor only to realize it’s already lit. It could only mean one thing – the presence of a coworker. Naturally one turns around to see the person and small talk becomes necessary. One grimaces and inwardly groans before muttering – “Nice weather!” or “I am freezing” or “What’s with this weather? Now watch, we’ll be cold all summer!”…all the while wishing our floor would hurry up and arrive because nothing follows small talk or weather talk or any such banality. After the last sentence is spoken there is only silence and frozen smiles on faces that underscore how little one really has in common with the person temporarily trapped with them in a shared space.

Real interactions have been this meaningless for quite sometime now…people circulating like machines, air-kissing at parties, asking how someone has been and not waiting for an answer or asking someone’s name and saying “pleased to meet you” only to meet the next day, get reintroduced and say “pleased to meet you” again, as if the introduction on the previous day never happened! One wonders why bother with parties at all if really getting to know people isn’t the goal? But that’s a digression, even if there is no real order or planned thought behind this particular post. But a digression nevertheless. What this post is trying to be about is the dissatisfaction with such “real” interactions and a resulting fascination with “virtual” interactions.

It was a novelty once. The idea that one could get to know so many people the world over. The people one met were more giving of themselves and more willing to listen. Innermost thoughts, feelings everything was par for the course, nothing was off limits. It was exciting. Note the past tense.

Now small talk dominates even virtual interactions, it’s everywhere. One always hits a plateau. In dieting, initially the pounds fly off and then you may continue dieting but starving yourself yields no further results or exercising, unless you ramp it up, you may as well be sleeping those calories off; the dreaded plateau. The only reality. No satisfaction without escalation, in learning, in living one must reach for new highs.

I have only been an online addict for two years…but I don’t even remember what I did in the hours of the evening, after all my chores were done and nothing else demanded my attention, before 2004. I didn’t own a laptop. Perhaps I watched a little too much TV, maybe I read? Like I said, can’t really remember. For two years, after dinner and dishes, in the morning, before leaving for work, during my lunch hour at work, I kept logging on. I found many friends online, chatted with relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time, some relatives I’d never met before. It was the best thing in the world.

And now the plateau threatens. The friends have nothing new to say, the laptop stays perched on me like dead weight as I wonder why I am online. Some friends come online, starting and ending conversations the same way, as if it were a ritual. Some confide, some complain, some ask how I am doing as I sense they really wouldn’t care for a real answer to the question.

Some get online and use status messages to indicate that they are busy and are not to be disturbed. Making one wonder why they are online in the first place! And wonder leads to the immediate understanding that perhaps in this age of mass consciousness, a collective like intelligence, perhaps we are all collectively plateauing. The oak tree is still standing but it’s hollow inside – the computer still fascinates, there’s hope that someone interesting will come a-knocking or that someone will initiate a stimulating and sustained conversation. But it’s empty hope. The laptop is weighing heavier by the minute. Maybe soon, the “shut down” key will be pressed and it will be forgotten, gathering dust in one corner of the house. But something else will have to take it’s place first. Until then we grit our teeth and make do with “weather talk”.

1 Comment

  1. Eloquent piece of thinking aloud. And as always with these pieces of yours, not a little disturbing…

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