August 9, 2009 23 Comments
Isn’t human behaviour wonderful?
This is just a trivial post but then I’ve had a lazy afternoon, so what do you expect? I went downtown, as I usually do of a Sunday, and watched some dancing. But I got there not long before it finished, so I strolled up into Thorpe Park, to watch people instead.
There were no murders going on, this being Flagstaff, and I couldn’t make up my mind whether to cringe or be envious of the guy singing and playing guitar at his girlfriend, so I watched a foursome, milling around near a car. I’ll call them Janet and John, and Peter and Jane.
Janet and John were approaching sixty, I’d say, and Peter and Jane were in their thirties. Jane was carrying a little dog, which was a useful distraction to all (a function usually served by babies). John, the older man, wore a cowboy hat and a moustache that he must have bought to go with the hat. That’s about as complex as he got. Janet, his wife, was more interesting. She had a sort of “nursey” air to her, but she was incredibly awkward and nervous, emitting little giggles to fill the silences. (She had those shoulders, Holly!) They were obviously Jane’s parents, and they hadn’t seen her for ages. This visit had clearly not been long enough by a factor of at least a thousand, but hell, Peter has his limits.
The thing is, they were all trying to say goodbye, but they couldn’t make it happen. Each would say a little piece and make sure it had a good trajectory, ending on the fundamental tone. Perfect. A momentary silence while everyone took their places for the finale, and then Peter would give Janet a hug. The trouble is, Janet would then giggle, shrug her shoulders and say how nice it was to have had more than one hug today. I think she got four in the end, so she must have been thrilled.
But her voice would always tail off, because she really didn’t want to see her daughter go. And that left the tune unfinished, so John, ever gallant, would then step in and say something to cover the gap – crack a joke, probably, given the way everyone took a conspiratorial step forward into a huddle and then erupted backward again. And that would give Jane time to think of something to say, or the dog would make a contribution and Janet would tickle him under the chin. And everyone was back where they started.
Peter made a solid move towards the car, and Jane put the dog inside. But she didn’t follow through, and came back out to appease poor Janet’s wistful look. And so then Peter would have to give her another hug (“Goodness, that’s THREE hugs I’ve had today!”) and the dance would start all over again.
I watched this for about half an hour and I felt so sorry for them. They were poised on the threshold of leaving but just couldn’t climb that last step. So I stood up, yawned, dropped my coffee cup into a trashcan and started to walk off, stage left. And immediately, Peter leapt for the driver’s door, Jane got in, Janet got a grip and John’s moustache breathed a sigh of relief. Mission accomplished.
SOMEBODY had to leave or they’d have been there still.
There’s no point to this post, I just wanted to remark on how beautiful and complex human communication is, and how subtly poised and balanced. What a wonderful world!