I live alone and, yep, sometimes I catch myself speaking aloud – to myself, obviously. My utterances are quiet; of the “Okay, what next – do the washing or check email?” variety. I try to keep a cap on it though. Don’t want to end up as one of those compulsive mutterers.
I used to live next door to a guy (also a single person) who spoke – nay, bellowed – to the TV. The partition wall between our rooms was thin, and he would join in vociferously with Question Time – a current affairs discussion forum on the BBC.
“Turn off his microphone!” he would roar. “Don’t let this fool have airtime! You are a disgrace, sir!” and so on, and on.
So is speaking aloud something we all need to do? I think the urge to do so is pretty strong, judging by my experiences on a bus journey earlier this week.
Talking Passenger 1: He was scruffy but clean and of indeterminate age, dressed entirely in shades of grey and beige. As he stood aside before boarding, to let an elderly couple off, he greeted them effusively, despite apparently not knowing them:
“No, no, that’s fine. I always check to see if anyone needs to get off first. Have a wonderful day, won’t you.”
The driver was greeted in similar vein: “Thank you for your kindness,” when given his bus ticket.
When he sat down, the conversation continued unabated, despite having no one to talk to:
“Oho, what do I see? A newspaper! Excellent!”
He went on to peruse the sports section then to use the paper as an improvised trumpet. This clearly pleased him, as he repeated it several times. He kept up a commentary on his journey until leaving the bus in a small village. I watched as he walked across to the war memorial, sat on its steps and continued to chatter amiably to himself.
This gentleman appeared to have a very comfortable life, I decided. His monologues clearly soothed and satisfied him.
Many of us, though, would fear ridicule for chattering away so freely to ourselves. A companion (or at the least, a mobile phone) becomes a necessity for many.
The bus was unexpectedly diverted at one point and almost everyone grabbed their phones and began chattering excitedly. Some were legitimately warning a relative or workmate that they would be delayed; most were simply calling hapless friends or family members in order to share the news with someone. For a moment I was tempted to do the same, before realising that no one I knew would be even remotely interested in hearing about my slightly lengthened journey.
Talking Passenger 2: A mother with a small child, aged about 4. She got on in a flap, asking the driver why all the bus timetables were wrong. He explained that, for reasons of their own, the bus company had seen fit to change the 171 bus to a 37, although the route and times had not been changed. Well yeah, they do that sometimes. Ours not to reason why…
Anyway, this news clearly disturbed the young lady. She needed to process the information and to do that, she evidently needed to talk.
She turned to her little boy and told him, “We won’t be able to get the 171 any more. They’ve stopped it. We’ll have to get a different bus now – one called a 37.”
The child nodded, mutely.
This clearly wasn’t enough for her. She repeated the information twice more.
Finally the boy replied, very pragmatically, I felt, and in a comforting tone, “But it had a W on the front, so that means it’s still going to Wells, doesn’t it?”
She had to agree that it did, and finally felt able to fall silent.
I had to change buses in that very city, and found myself seated in the bus shelter alongside…
Talking passenger 3: “Oh that’s right!” she said, suddenly, loudly and in a voice heavily laced with sarcasm.
I started, before realising she was talking not to me but to a small terrier, wearing a neckerchief.
“Yes, why don’t you! Put your muddy paw on Mummy! Now my raincoat’s got a nasty smear on it.”
The dog wagged it’s tail cheerfully and attempted to clamber on to her lap. It clearly didn’t get sarcasm.
“Get OFF!” she bellowed, angrily.
This time the message was clear and her pet withdrew and busied itself by chewing a discarded sweet wrapper.
As our bus pulled in, a teenage girl held the access gate open for the lady.
“Thank you,” she said, “but the driver isn’t ready yet, so I’ll wait here. Not,” she added, cuttingly, “that you can hear a word I’m saying, with those headphones stuck in your ears!”
A man nearby smiled sympathetically, “Yeah, dogs!” he responded. “Never listen, do they?”
The lady turned on him. “My DOG hears every word I say!” she announced, imperiously. “It’s those young people with the headphones – they never hear you.”
She clearly needed to be heard.
I suppose, to some extent, we all do. And, yes, we need to talk.
Why else would I be writing this blog? 🙂