Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Talking Versus Listening

I’m a social person. I generally enjoy meeting new people and love having conversations, sharing stories, and joking around. I’ve also been correctly pegged by others as “laid back” or hard to get upset. A “Type B” personality, some say. I suppose I’d have to accept that as a label, and don’t mind it a bit.

I remember once teaching an especially challenging summer school college course, one for which the students had all been admitted for the fall but on a contingency basis. It was a program for which this particular population of students -- ones who were on the margins for having the qualifications to be accepted -- had to pass three courses that were essentially meant to be preparatory for college work, and mine was one of them.

The idea was both to get them ready for the real thing and to see if they could handle the daily demands and responsibilities of being college students. It was a weird “college-but-not-quite-college” kind of situation -- I suppose the closest I’ve come to teaching high school.

I thankfully never had to deal too greatly with unruly students during my full-time teaching days. But this class was probably the nuttiest in terms of in-class behavior, and I often had to exert a lot of extra energy to keep everyone focused and prevent the sucker going off the rails.

We were several weeks into the course when a student called out over the mild roar to say something I still remember. I guess I regard it as an unwitting compliment about my teaching style, although it also said something about my personality as well.

“I wish just once you would get reeeeally mad!” she said.

Everyone suddenly grew strangely quiet to hear what I’d say in response. I just smiled and shook my head, and everyone laughed. I had already well established that my getting upset or angry just wasn’t going to happen -- that no matter how crazy and loud they became, they weren’t getting me riled up enough to yell and scream in response. For better or worse, that just wasn’t my style.

When playing poker, I tend to keep quiet, too, particularly when involved in hands. I’ll speak up and be social, but mostly stay out of the way of “table talk,” finding it easier to reveal less myself than to try to get others to spill more.

On Monday of this week I had surgery on my vocal cords, which if I remember correctly is the first time I’ve had any kind of surgery since I was a child. Had some kind of bothersome growth appear over on one side that for much of the summer actually made it hard for me to talk at all. I was always hoarse-sounding, and sometimes I’d open up my trap and nothing would come out whatsoever.

The surgery went very well. I don’t remember a thing, of course, having been knocked out well before and only waking up after being wheeled back out of the OR. Still have to sweat a biopsy of what got clipped out of there, but the chances are very high it isn’t anything to fret.

Anyhow, as part of the post-op instructions I’m now on what they call “voice rest,” which means I’m not allowed to talk for five days. I found a cool free text-to-speech app for the phone I’ve used some, and I’ve also found out how to do the same on my laptop, so with Vera I’ve been conversing that way.

Otherwise, since I work at home I’m not having to speak much anyway, and so I haven’t missed being able to talk. Weirdly, I’ve discovered it hardest to keep quiet when with our cats and horses. I’m realizing I constantly talk to them when I’m around them, usually just saying their names over and over. But I’m having to stifle that urge this week.

Another thing I’ve realized this week is how much more I value being able to hear over being able to speak. It would be a devastating choice to have to make -- whether to give up talking or listening -- but for me it would be a trivially easy decision. Perhaps most would choose the same way, I don’t know.

Anyhow, no talking for now. And no singing for four weeks (say the instructions)! I’m not much of a singer, but if you want to hear me singing you can on my newly-released album, Welcome to Muscle Beach (one of seven albums I’ve released and the only one with vocals.)

Wish me well as I quietly wait out my five days here. Meanwhile, talk among yourselves.


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