Conversations

This morning I announced in my Facebook status update that I love garrulous salespeople.

On another note, yesterday in Andy Martin’s piece, Beyond Understanding, in NYT’s series – The Stone – I got interested in his quoting Simon Baron-Cohen:

“In his book “Mindblindness,” Simon Baron-Cohen argues that the whole raison d’être of consciousness is to be able to read other people’s minds; autism, in this context, can be defined as an inability to “get” other people, hence “mindblind.””

When I announced that I loved garrulous salespeople two of my dear friends responded.  R said that she did too and that silence was overrated.  I responded to her comment saying that I just loved watching how they were all lit up from inside, putting their best foot forward, when they were trying to make a sale.  I implied that it was interesting to watch the process.

There is a heater in my cubicle that emits a series of dings as it automatically switches on as the thermostat dictates:  Ding…Ding…Ding…Ding…and then the welcome heat.   The dings may not be obvious in the sales people but they are very much there.  They are trying to get me to buy something or to make me a repeat customer.  Do they know that I am aware that they are trying to sell to me and that I am watching them with hidden amusement as I decide whether to be “sold” or not? Or do they think I feel as though they are my newest best friends and that I am all warmed up for a sale because of this newly minted friendship?

At my response, which is only partially the reason I like garrulous sales people, R came back with a response that she missed the “sales” bit in the comment and she felt that her response was probably off base.  Stay tuned R!

Another friend, J, responded that she didn’t like garrulous salespeople who went on and on about their product.

She has a point.  The sleazy used car salesmen, and so many other types fall in this distinctly unlikable category. But I responded to J with a couple of anecdotes.  The ones that had prompted my comment in the first place.

I was strolling home last night and I decided to stop at Cafe Galet, a tiny French patisserie.  I wanted to try one of the macaroons on display.  There were orange ones, green ones, brown ones…So I had to ask him what flavors they were.  He explained them all.  Then he told me that the mocha one must be had with an espresso and that the chocolate one went well with a cappuccino.  He also said that one small one was enough, that it packed so many calories.  He was incredulous that a customer before me had purchased sixteen of them and was washing them down with le Coke!  He went on to wring his hands at how Americans didn’t care what they drank with what they ate.  It was beyond him.  I flashed back to a memory of my time in Cannes when some co-workers had ordered Coke with chocolate mousse making our waiter and the waiters on neighboring tables frown.  I also quizzed him on his delicious looking madeleines.  They were smaller in size than the mass-marketed Entenmann’s.  Some were the familiar golden yellow and the others were greenish.  He said the greenish ones were pistachio flavored.  He stated that madeleines only tasted good in these two flavors, that chocolate ones were horrible.  Of course one can’t talk about madeleines without discussing Marcel Proust, especially with a Frenchman.

I ordered my chocolate macaroon and a cappuccino as he suggested but when I pulled out my credit card he said he only took cash.  This led to another conversation on how banks were crooks and why he only accepted cash.

I enjoyed our conversation.  I returned to him this morning for a buttered croissant and a cappuccino and talked some more about the “delicieuse” soups he was planning to serve for lunch.

The other anecdote was about a woman who had a gemstone jewelry stall at the Bryant park holiday shops.  She had some amazing pieces, a lot of them fashioned with different varieties of Jasper, Opals and Kyanite.  I am fascinated with gemstones so I was full of questions.  However, Helen (at Helen’s Corner) was reticent.  She wasn’t offering up any information.  At first she was only answering me when I asked a question.  This time my questions were the catalyst for the “Dings”.  But then she warmed up and started telling me about everything at her store….the Red Creek Jaspers, the Black Lace Agates, the African Opals and the Kyanite.  I asked her about her creative process and her sources.  I came away with so much information and so much fascination at how some people were making such a go of their Plan B’s.

So I love conversations.  I love to see people warming up to converse.  I was telling another friend today that the thing I yearned for the most, the thing that would make me the happiest, was having someone with whom I could have long, meaningful conversations.  I told this friend that I remembered his conversation with the owner of an antiquarian bookshop here in NYC, when he was visiting.  He spent an entire afternoon at this shop talking to the owner about Indian geopolitics, listening to him about his 1979 visit to India, learning that the son of the owner of this shop was a famous sportscaster in the NY tri-state area.  Even a second-hand retelling of the conversation was interesting to me.

Conversations where there is give and take, where one listens and learns and where I one is heard in turn, where one can willingly share a bit of oneself, no currency, no riches are more valuable than that.  For me such conversations have been especially rare this year. 

Which brings me to the three points I wanted to make here.  One that I probably seek out conversations with “garrulous salespeople” because I am starved for conversation.  Sounds pathetic perhaps but not necessarily – it’s probably a sign of resourcefulness in making up for dearth, I’d say!  And they do their best to listen…it’s a part of the warming up “ding”.

The second point is that R wasn’t off base at all in her first comment.  She was in fact right on target.  Silence is overrated.  Conversation isn’t rated high enough.

The third goes back to “mindblindness” – the raison d’etre of consciousness is to be able to read people’s minds – to see where someone is really going with a thought.   This is what makes something like a status message interesting, seeing where people think you are going with any given thought.  🙂

1 Comment

  1. THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading this, Prags! I guess several non-autistic people we know are completely "mindblind" – I find that doubly interesting after reading what you wrote. The aforesaid folk have no inkling where one might be headed with one's thoughts, they are least perceptive, let alone sensitive to one's thoughts, to begin with. The listen-speak ratio is so off-kilter with such people. Which is why online communication serves as a better conduit for conversations. I too, like you, am rather starved for conversation. At the end of a livelong day, all I yearn for is a cuppa and some conversation with someone who talks and listens and talks again 🙂


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