Silence

I had an odd experience yesterday evening. At about 6:30 pm, while on my way home, I stopped off briefly at a local pub, bought a half of lager (Moretti, if you really want to know), and sat out in its garden, alone on a trestle table, lost in thought, smoking in the watery sunlight.

And then, after 20 minutes, I continued my journey home, and took up my newly self-appointed role as the 7 pm bartender in the Smoky Drinky Bar. I didn’t know how long I’d spend in the Smoky Drinky Bar. In the event, I spent nearly 5 hours there.

So I had the experience of sitting at a table at a real pub side-by-side, or in close conjunction, with the experience of sitting at a table in a virtual pub. Which one was better?

Well, there wasn’t much sparkling conversation at the real pub. In fact there wasn’t any conversation at all – at least at my table. I doubt if I would have stayed on at the real pub for another 5 hours of being lost in thought. If nothing else, it would have become dark, and cold.

But it was wall-to-wall sparkling conversation in the Smoky Drinky Bar. And that’s what it always seems to be like there. And as a participant in very many conversations over the years, some of them absolutely scintillatingly sparkling, I’m a bit puzzled as to why there’s such a buzz to the Smoky Drinky Bar. I am myself certainly not the magic ingredient. Nor, so far as I can see, is anyone else.

I think it may be the sheer novelty of engaging in conversation with people who are scattered all over the world. And maybe also with people you don’t really know. Weren’t all the best parties the ones in which surprising new guests arrived? Aren’t the best things that happen always a bit unexpected? I really don’t know. Perhaps it’s simply that everyone is smoking.

Maybe one day at the Smoky Drinky Bar, nobody will have anything to say. And all present will fall silent and pull on their cigarettes, and take another long slow sip of whatever they happen to be drinking, as the seconds tick by. I was talking to Emily about this a few weeks ago, remarking that on the Smoking Section she was always quick to ensure that her interviews proceeded briskly, and no fatal silences were allowed to intrude. I was suggesting that, in our conversation, we should allow silences to develop. And I think we managed a few quite long silences.

Are there ever any such silences on talk shows? Are there ever occasions where all present fall silent? As for example, when asked some question, a guest is lost for words, and says, “I don’t know what to say,” and the host or compere replies, “Me too.” But I suppose the Michael Parkinsons and David Lettermans of the world are never lost for words. That’s how they got to the top. Even with sullen, silent guests, they could fill the airwaves. Some people are in their natural element while talking, it seems. They spread their wings and fly. I don’t know how they do it.

Anyway, I think it’s a good idea that there be a bartender present on the Smoky Drinky Bar. His job is not to serve drinks or take food orders, but to dispel silence. His job is to be someone to talk to. In this respect, Petej had an excellent suggestion in reply to something I wrote:

“It isn’t possible for me, as the landlord or patron, to spend my entire time in the bar”.

It seems to me that you should do what any landlord would do, have assistants.
You have said that people all over the world are visiting, from different time zones. Maybe a few volunteers who are around their computers could cover other shifts?

Why not? I have appointed myself to the 7 pm UK slot, largely because in the past that was the sort of time I used to meet up with friends on nights out. And if the same applies everywhere else in the world, then why not have a few people appoint themselves to the 7 pm slot in whatever time zone in which they happen to live?

Yesterday, more or less within seconds of my arrival for the 7 o’clock shift, there were three people present. I suspect that in Australia and New Zealand and the USA, the same thing would happen, once enough people knew about the Smoky Drinky Bar. When people know that somebody will be there, they will start coming.

And pretty soon the Smoky Drinky Bar may well be chock full. And then? Brigitte suggested:

I understand that Frank’s place can only harbour a set amount of guests and therefore once that number is reached, the doors will be closed to non-members.

We’ve yet to reach this point. The maximum number the Smoky Drinky Bar can hold is 12 people, and the most I’ve seen so far is 8 people. I don’t know what happens when the magic 12 is reached. Maybe the doors close themselves, banging shut, a bit like the ones in H.M. Slade prison? I think I’ll take things as they come.

The Smoky Drinky Bar is rather like the central bar in Cheers, only smaller. And it hasn’t got side tables like Cheers. It is, as it were, a square table or bartop with three stools on each side. A sort of largish dinner party. And only one person can speak at any one time. So with 12 people present, everyone needs to be on average 92% silent. In such circumstances, the ideal guests will be those who are naturally silent. Like Grandad, who was telling me a few days back that in pubs he was accustomed to sit in silence with his friends and acquaintances. For we will need not just ready talkers, but ready listeners as well. In fact, we will need rather more listeners than talkers.

Advertisements

About Frank Davis

smoker
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Silence

  1. garyk30 says:

    One can learn a lot by listening.
    One can not learn when talking.

    My Granddad had a sign in his kitchen that said:
    A wise old owl lived in an Oak
    The more he saw the less he spoke
    The less he spoke the more he heard
    The wise old owl got to be a wise old bird

    Also, I have found, when drinking I will not say something stupid when I only listen.

  2. RdM says:

    There seem to me to be some non sequiters here… to me, or contrary ideas…

    Someone to whisk & spin along the conversations, a la the successful talk shows, or someone who is equally comfortable with the naturally developed silence in contemplation that can occur in groups of people gathered together sometimes, as quite nicely put here?

    A sort of largish dinner party. And only one person can speak at any one time. So with 12 people present, everyone needs to be 92% silent. In such circumstances, the ideal guests will be those who are naturally silent. Like Grandad, who was telling me a few days back that in pubs he was accustomed to sit in silence with his friends and acquaintances. For we will need not just ready talkers, but ready listeners as well. In fact, we will need rather more listeners than talkers.

    Conversation, the art of listening as well as talking, is a skill that I am still woefully still learning…

    Respectful silences are good, I think…

    But earlier (and I was watching Graham Norton tonight briefly, whom I usually quite enjoy, at least for the sometimes great guests!) you wrote also:

    ‘Maybe one day at the Smoky Drinky Bar, nobody will have anything to say. And all present will fall silent and pull on their cigarettes, and take another long slow sip of whatever they happen to be drinking, as the seconds tick by. I was talking to Emily about this a few weeks ago, remarking that on the Smoking Section she was always quick to ensure that her interviews proceeded briskly, and no fatal silences were allowed to intrude. I was suggesting that, in our conversation, we should allow silences to develop. And I think we managed a few quite long silences.”

    I think that this is perfectly fine, and natural… and I could perhaps wish we had more of it.
    For it may be that only in such mutually arrived at stopping points that new ideas come forth.

    And then it can be all spoiled by someone drunk and self-important or absorbed who can’t bear even a moment’s silence, and feels impelled to fill it with it with their own interior talking out…

    Are there ever any such silences on talk shows? Are there ever occasions where all present fall silent?

    Maybe not on talk shows, but I think in deep dialogue even communion with friends, or just other human beings, yes, I think good natural silences can be arrived at, and be valuable for all.

    As for example, when asked some question, a guest is lost for words, and says, “I don’t know what to say,” and the host or compere replies, “Me too.” But I suppose the Michael Parkinsons and David Lettermans of the world are never lost for words. That’s how they got to the top. Even with sullen, silent guests, they could fill the airwaves. Some people are in their natural element while talking, it seems. They spread their wings and fly. I don’t know how they do it.

    Neither do I, but I admire their skills in repartee (and I include Graham Norton there too).

    But one can also admire their celebrity guests, who have also become quite smart and skilled.
    Yet also often natural and entirely themselves… and I’m sure that they all also would experience and enjoy, value, times of silence and contemplation in their own lives, and have friends same.

    Anyway, I think it’s a good idea that there be a bartender present on the Smoky Drinky Bar. His job is not to serve drinks or take food orders, but to dispel silence. His job is to be someone to talk to

    Well here’s where that all seems a little odd to me…
    Dispel silence? Someone to talk to? I’m sorry, no…

    As above, I think rare naturally arriving silences in a group in communication are a beneficence, a rare (too rare perhaps) example of perfectly being present together, yet not feeling the need to say anything… it will usually be broken up sooner or later by someone, perhaps with a joke, unless you’re all on a meditation course*… ;=})

    (or with a fresh new insight to share with the group, having come out of that silence inspired)

    (*I went on one once, 10 days, total silence, apart from with the teacher – Vipassana – great!)

    What was that English one? (Or was it? – anyway, in an unexpected moment of group silence…)
    “An angel has passed”… (or some-such?) – whereas, a cynical Italian or German version… ?
    “A policeman is born!” (I’m not quite sure if I got those right… someone may correct that! ;-)

    Anyway, I don’t think it needs a “bartender”. or any sort of roster of oversight volunteers, actually;- I think it already exists as a small group free space, that ought to able to be entirely self-moderating, especially since there’s already a small group of trusted “crowned” members…

    I don’t think you need to worry about it so much yet, Frank, it all seems on a good trajectory!

    I’ve sat in for a few hours tonight, even playing music, and no-one has visited…

    Bartender in absence…

    • Frank Davis says:

      Dispel silence? Someone to talk to? I’m sorry, no…

      I think it’s important that someone be there to greet visitors. Because if there isn’t anyone, they won’t stay.

      Bartender in absence…

      I have a number of Ozzie and Kiwi readers. At some point in time I’ll be looking for a volunteer bartender to run a Happy Hour down under. I could publicize it on my blog. I think the important thing is for someone to be there for at least 10 minutes at the start of the Happy Hour.

      • RdM says:

        Apologies;- I completely misinterpreted you there, I’d been thinking of your talk show host allusion, as though meaning someone to “dispel silence” in that sense, in a group, chivvying the conversations along if a silence developed, which seemed so at odds to me with the other mentions of naturally occurring pauses and contemplative silence moments that do naturally occur…

        Reading too fast and jumping to conclusions, perhaps a beer too many!

        Sorry about that!

        In fact I was a de-facto bartender in absence for quite a few hours here last night and early am, perhaps about midnight – 5am UK time… no-one came in.

        I had audio only for most of it, with some acoustic guitar at very low volume playing… it would have given a sense of presence or the bar being live, and I thought I’d hear someone come in if they did, even if away from the screen.

        I’m not sure at this stage whether I could commit to a regular timetable though.
        (and certainly not into our early am as I have been recently in all the excitement!)
        But let’s see how the hours pan out… I’m looking for (real life) part-time work at the moment, possibly afternoons or early evenings, so things are a little uncertain.

        • RdM says:

          Well having outlined those thoughts (I’m thinking help desk call center) I’ve as one might, why not? ~ had a complete change of mind (and clothes) so am now tending bar, audio only while otherwise empty, at the moment was some gentle Pat Metheny solo guitar, sonorous, deep, thoughtful, restrained yet full [ah, the subjective review!] ~ playing in the background…
          (the album “One Quiet Night”) (possibly followed by his 2011 “What It’s All About” ) *
          ~ all in good taste… I think & hope!!!

          Having donned a jacket and beret over a white shirt, adjusted the lighting, poured a Kronenbourg 1664 beer, I find it’s it’s suddenly joy deep in the jazz club cave! ;=}))
          * (very discreetly in the background, alterable at will or request!)

          You might like to look in to see/hear how inoffensive a good ambient background music appears, er, sounds, or not?

          Cheers!!!

  3. RdM says:

    I really wish that one could get WYSIWYG in replies on WordPress posts, one can go so to so much effort to justify lines and edit, yet after posting (and there’s no preview!) it’s all fucked up…

    Oh well!! (and I suppose even this will be! ;-)

    Maybe the secret is to
    just type really short sentences! ;=})

    Best wishes, cheers, & all that!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Nothing I can do about comment editing.

      • RdM says:

        I regret even mentioning it, a bit “tired and emotional”!
        (So much for meditation* and staying calm, eh? ;=})
        (which was many years ago, I didn’t keep up the practice…)

        It is a bit strange though – the font size seems the same; one types within the bounds of the edit box as laid out, and then afterwards finds that lines have wrapped where before they were well within the box margins. Oh, well!

        * As the Irish comedic author and playwright J. P. Donleavy remarks in his very funny book “The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival & Manners” (I have a battered old Penguin version)

        Meditation

        Be sure you really need this on top of the worries you’ve already got.

  4. garyk30 says:

    OT:
    Happy Anniversary to the Brexit vote.

  5. roobeedoo2 says:

    Only 8M (that’s million) US lives saved since 1964 from the life saving ‘innovation’ of anti smoking campaigns?

    https://www.medigo.com/blog/infographics/lifesaving-innovations/

    And speaking of silence, no word on the ‘one billion lives’ saved by vaping…

    • nisakiman says:

      Now let’s see – 400,000 people die of ‘smoking related diseases’ every year in the USA according to Tobacco Control. Since 1964 we have had 53 years. At 400,000 per an, that equates to 21,200,0000. And of course, with the rates of smoking in 1964, that 400,000 must have been much higher, mustn’t it? But anyway, that fact (?) notwithstanding, we have 8,000,000 vs 21,200,000.

      Something does not compute……

      Well, of course vaping will save a billion lives, because, er, vapers say so. So it must be true, innit?

      • Tony says:

        Yes, their figures are both ludicrous and contradictory. Unfortunately, true believers do exist. I suspect they blame themselves for what they assume are absurdities resulting from their own shortcomings. As with many religions, the priests are considered infallible.

        Personally I very much doubt that anyone anywhere in the world has ever died from smoking tobacco. As Dave Hitt used to say, if they could “name three” then that might be a start. But they can’t so they won’t.

    • Joe L. says:

      It’s also interesting to note that “Anti-smoking Campaigns” is the only “innovation” in the diagram that is totally intangible.

      It’s like the old Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others…”

  6. Emily says:

    Attention all Smoky Drinky patrons- I will be starting relief duty tonight at 7 PM EST!

    • nisakiman says:

      Sadly, Emily, I won’t be there to join you, it being 2 am here. However, I wish you all the best in your stewardship of Frank’s most excellent bar! You will, I know, be an exemplary hostess!

  7. Pingback: The Smoking Ban, 10 Years On | Facts Do Matter

No need to log in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s