What is it about personal proximity that engenders both silence and conversation?
I’m traveling for a few days and my travels began with a train ride and a shared seat with nice lady who was at first buried in her book and then mesmerized by the panoramic views out the window.
She was on the train first. When I entered the car the only vacant seat was the one next to her. I said, “May I sit down?”
Silently she moved her purse and sweater and magazine and that was it. Not another word was exchanged for ninety minutes. I did say a few words that could have started a conversation, like, “nice view” and “ Is this your pen,” as I picked it up off the floor, but nothing started a dialogue.
Now I get to the airport and arrive at my gate for a cross-country flight. I ask the guy next to me waiting at the gate, “Are they boarding yet?” He says, “Not yet, but soon. It's always soon isn't it?”
He spoke in a friendly tone and punctuated his words with a smile. A conversation began and then continued on board for we happened to be seatmates.
I don’t know if I ever will meet, see or even talk to this gentlemen again, but I am the better for the experience. Proximity brought us together and for a brief moment, in this illusion of time, two strangers shared lives, experiences, hopes, expectations, wishes, concepts, stories of children and a meal.
There must be meaning in all this? Could it be the choice that “oneness” is either acknowledged or ignored, but it’s always there? The former brings enlightening conversation, the latter an opportunity missed.