Monday, November 18, 2013


One of our regular volunteers says to me, with amused pleasure "Roy thinks yams are yucky and said he won't eat any at Thanksgiving this year."

I don't think I have ever heard of this Roy before, have no context for his yams, and have no idea what any of this refers to. But I know this volunteer. She is fairly capable as a volunteer, consistent, reasonably dedicated. I don't know what her developmental issues are, but whatever they are they make talking with her decidedly non generic. I like her well enough. She is neither a favorite of mine nor an irritant. Judging from the rate and length of our exchanges I suppose I am neither an irritant nor a favorite to her either. I do know that talking with her works best if I apply a great deal of energy to it. I have found that conversation has a power to carry you along. It is full of rhythms and waves. You can ride it. You can rest in the other's speech. You can dance along to the call and response of it, all the sparks and light bulbs. But this, with her, is not really conversation. It's a lot more like taking turns saying things. Nevertheless it has its rhythmic, tennis like qualities to it, too, in it's own way. I mean, if you think of it as her hitting a ball to me, me hitting it back, her ignoring the return and hitting me a new ball. You see, I am nearly certain that my responses do not affect what she says next to me in any way.

I will illustrate with two examples.

Example one. I respond "Who is this Roy and what on earth does he have against yams? Can I meet him? Is he here now?"

She replies "He's so funny. Last year he wouldn't take off his shoes!"

Or, example number two. I respond "I think it would be interesting to hollow out a yam through a small access hole and cram marshmallows into the center. Then close up the yam and deep fry it in peanut oil. Wait, are we talking about yams or sweet potatoes?"

She replies "He's so funny. Last year he wouldn't take off his shoes!"

I'm okay with this. It's a dynamic that I feel underlies more library conversations than might at first be apparent. Most people are better at pretending to listen. Well, this volunteer will have none of that! And bless her for her lack of pretense. Bring me more of these crazy Roy stories. I have some stories too!

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