Yesterday a friend was talking about having to sit through unwanted conversations, like when she politely asks someone about their holidays or how they are, and they give her a blow by blow response.
I said I was probably guilty of that in blogs and emails, and felt reassured it wasn’t just me. Then again, I was luckier than I realized, I said… I don’t have to sit through such speeches from other folk as I wouldn’t hear them very well. People have to restrict themselves to “hello, horrible weather! And what kind of cat is that? Look how he’s hugging the radiator. Are all these bears yours?”
“The only way I have to sit through long stories,” I said, “is when Mum is having to sit through them and I’m waiting for her.”
Well, that was just asking for trouble… A friend of Mum’s came unexpectedly for tea the very next day, and talked at length about a sporting hobby of hers, though I didn’t hear any of it and she could have been discussing the moon for all I knew.
It’s difficult to look polite and interested when there’s nothing to engage yourself with. Your eyes wander around the room, pausing on the same old things (newspaper, cat, bag on floor; newspaper, cat, bag on floor). After a while it speeds up (newspapercatbagonfloor, newspapercatbagonfloor) and you start fidgeting. Once I’ve started to fidget, there’s no way back… I have to get away quite soon.
I have a theory that’s why I ended up with so-called panic disorder: one had to be polite and pleasant without interrupting or leaving the room or reading a book or staring out of the window. Once I began fidgeting, I knew it was all slipping away from me; the wish to be friendly was on a head-on collision with the desire to escape. Which was where panic generally set in.
I couldn’t be bothered with panic this time, though I could feel it lurking in the background, eyes glinting red. Instead, you look over at your visitor, who’s still talking, and feel the sleep settling in your eyes…