I am a lousy conversationalist. Really, I am. This assessment is often difficult for my friends to accept since I am a people person and can strike up a conversation with anyone; so, make no mistake, no one is safe from my own personal brand of social lunacy. Neighbors, coworkers, even unsuspecting passersby are all potential victims. Even the person in front of me in the grocery line might be targeted for an inane and pointless exchange should I happen to notice some intriguing item in her cart!
The fact of the matter is, I am a terrible rambler and for those of you who know me and think I possess the gift of gab let me tell you that there is a tremendous difference between an enjoyable, animated conversation and someone who simply cannot cut through the-you-know-what. Yep, I am a digresser. I digress all over the place and over the years my tendency toward random and often off-topic chit-chat has become an increasingly painful process for my listener. The gentle art of conversation is like the verbal version of an oil spill to me. It begins as a slow leak, and pretty soon there is information all over the place. For some reason, I am unable to leave a discussion that is sufficiently informative, well enough alone. I am inexplicably compelled to throw in extraneous details that the listener doesn’t need or really even want to know as if there must be something else I could add. Surely, my captive listener will want to know all about the miscellaneous nuts and bolts of my personal life like why I am so busy I can’t find time to get my car into the shop, this morning’s brutal commute on I-95, last summer’s vacation, the evils of plastic shoes, or the benefits of baking with chickpea flour that somehow seem to come out of my mouth when conversing with total strangers. Apparently, I feel the need to use these examples to illustrate a point when, in fact, further illustration is not required. The most unfortunate part is that I am aware I am committing this offense as it is happening. Nine times out of ten, I am left scratching my head and asking myself, “Now why on earth did I say that?”
Then, there is the insurmountable problem of my brain which seems determined to move infinitely faster than my mouth; i.e., I am unable to speak fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. When immersed in lively conversation, I vainly attempt to keep up with my thoughts by speaking faster and faster, but often what comes out is a run on sentence or dangling participle usually peppered with verbal ticks added for color. “Y’know”, ”so”, ”I mean”, even the occasional “Dude!” are all part of my repertoire. Given my propensity to slaughter dialogue, it is imperative that I never lose my temper. Not only because no one actually enjoys losing their temper, but when I lose mine I am in grave danger of sounding like Darren McGavin in Jean Shepherd’s “The Christmas Story”. “Not a finger! (naddafinga)” I believe is the famous quote from the movie and a prime example of what is likely to come out of my mouth since I lose all ability to string together a grammatically correct sentence in moments of intense stress.
This brings me, finally, to why I love writing. Writing allows me to control my verbal diarrhea and edit my words. I’m not saying it’s easy. Editing my written words is just as difficult for me as it is to stop them from incessantly spilling from my mouth. Maybe even more so; however, in the end, I have the perfect version or so I like to tell myself, of what I want to say. Writing allows me to ramble and not feel quite so idiotic about it since no one else has been subjected to the idiocy of the discussion.
With writing, when something inane jumps out of my mouth and I have one of those, “Why, on earth did I say that?” moments, editing makes short work of those regrettable words. A simple gentle press of the delete key and they are banished forever nary to be thought of again. That’s the good news. The bad news is that now that I write for a living, all of my friends and family may very well stop talking to me and simply read the abridged version!