He was elbow-deep in the guts of a copying machine. No one else stood with him. And he was just talking away.

Not under his breath either. He talked like nobody’s business.

I had just turned the corner, several yards away, but even my approaching presence didn’t stop, slow or soften his talking.

He seemed to be talking the machine through some difficult birth.

Instead, he was speaking to someone on a handless phone attached to his ear.

Sometimes, my mind moves about as quickly as jelly oozing down stairs on a cold day.

Most people nowadays see someone talking to himself, they assume he is speaking on a phone. I still remember the days when most folks questioned the sanity of someone apparently talking to himself.

For a moment, I wondered about the sanity of the man at the machine.

Though I shouldn’t. I’ve been guilty of talking to myself for years.

A preacher’s comment from my youth didn’t help this affliction. He said he enjoyed talking to himself because it assured he would have an intelligent conversation. It also assured no one would disagree with him.

There is also the old adage that it’s all right to talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer yourself.

I may be guilty of that, too.

Upon finishing one task, I often ask of an empty room, or no one in particular: What’s next? Usually, I respond with whatever’s next on the list.

When writing, it is not unusual that I read my stories aloud before filing them. It generally helps catch mistakes, typos, etc. So, several times a day, I sit at my desk apparently having a discussion with my computer.

Probably, the worst bouts of talking to myself occur during yard work. The lawn mower and weed-eater drown out whatever it is you’re saying. So, no one should be able to hear you talk to yourself, which seems like a good time to cuss.

You can just cuss away or say anything you want to yourself under the roar of a mower motor and the whir of a weed-eater engine, and no one should be able to hear a thing.

Of course, the neighbors can see your lips moving, but you can always say you were chewing gum if anyone ever asks.

But how often does anyone ask if you’re talking to yourself? Not too often, because people used to think if someone was talking to themselves then that someone may be crazy. Better to just leave him alone.

Phone technology has changed all of that. A person who appears to be talking to himself as he walks through the grocery aisles may really be talking to someone else. Or maybe not.

You can use a phone to actually talk to yourself, or pretend to talk to someone else. If you see someone you want to avoid while you’re out and about, all you have to do is pretend your phone vibrated and start a one-sided conversation on the phone. Just make sure your phone doesn’t actually ring while you’re having this fake call.

Phones have changed the whole perception of talking in public.

I briefly thought the man at the machine was talking to himself, but the majority of the world now assumes a man talking to himself is just talking on the phone.

Hopefully, my neighbors will think I’m only talking on the phone when I’m cussing my weed-eater.

Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times.

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