Playing the conversation game


My Sweet Al says, “I run ahead of the horse. I don’t always have to be in the front row raising my hand with the answer.”

News to me. If someone else had the answer, why didn’t they speak up?

“People don’t like you when you dominate the conversation. Why can’t you sit back and let your turn come to you?”

For some of us, it’s almost impossible. We can’t wait on slow people. We have a game to play and we need to get the ball. You know how we are; a little of us goes a long way. I have been kicked from under the table many times to let me know I need to wait my turn. That’s no fun.

One day I quit apologizing for me. Though a fool, I have walked my road, played the game, the best I know how.

When I was with my California family, this fact was brought to my attention. I sat at the dining room table with my family of three introverts — our daughter, Cricket, granddaughter Tiffany and her husband, Jimmy. They didn’t say a word. Total silence hung in the air like cobwebs hanging from trees. A strong wind wouldn’t move them. I thought they had all died on me.

I finally said, “I’m out of place. I know you’re family, but I need to be with my kind of people. They know how to talk.”

They grunted, gave me a weird look and remained silent.

I said, “OK, gang, it’s this way, conversation is like a basketball game. I have the ball. I throw it to you and you say something. Then you throw it back to me and I say something. It isn’t that hard to throw the ball back and forth.”

There are five players on the court, three at this table. The ball is passed around to all the players on the team. It’s a fast game. Then someone makes the dunk, two points, and the fans yell and cheer them on.

Our granddaughter said, “I don’t like everyone talking at the same time. It bothers me. I can’t handle that.”

Then her husband offered an explanation. “We wait for an opening in the conversation, so we can say something, but there is never an opening with extroverts. By the time we get to speak, everyone has moved on.”

Then the three nodded with an “aha” and laughed under their breath at the same time. They had agreed on something without saying anything. Then someone said, “That happens to me, all the time.” Then a quiet “tee-hee.”

Cobwebs were still growing around us and I thought it was my turn to speak. I caught the ball and was ready to make a 3-pointer. I started to say something, and our daughter raised her open palm in front of my face, “Shhh. Jimmy is still talking.”

The hand in my face put me on the defense, I grabbed the ball, “Well, boohoo. He stopped talking, it was my turn.”

Our granddaughter said, “No. He didn’t throw the ball to you, you took it away from Jimmy.”

“Lord, help us all. If he snoozes, he loses. He needs to get in the game.” I put my fingers into the palm of my hand for a time-out sign, “No one’s hurt. It’s just a game.”

My daughter looked at me in total disbelief. “Mother.”

Then our granddaughter said, “For the introverts, it’s more like playing a game of golf. It’s quiet. A whoosh and then there is one or two quiet claps.”

Oh brother, they all agreed. They had made a hole-in-one and basked in their understanding of each other. Then silence hovered over the table once again. I had been hushed, I had been kicked, I knew better than to speak. I waited for someone to say anything. Nothing but unbearable silence. I raised my hand. “May I say something?”

They all looked at me as if I had ruined their fun. I need to hang out with basketball players. They know how to play the game. I surmise that introverts are content to keep their thoughts to themselves. That sounds selfish to me. I have something valuable to say and someone might need the information.

To paraphrase Isaiah, the man of the hour with a message, who looked like a fool and ran through the town with his buttocks showing and shouting, “Whoever walks the road, or plays the game, although a fool, they shall not go astray.”

Final brushstroke: We are in the game of life and living in full play. Extroverts and introverts are both engaged and are recruited for different games. Some play basketball. They keep the ball in the air and love the roar of the crowd. Others wait their turn and enjoy a quiet game of golf, a tee-hee and a soft clap, then head back to their golf carts.