Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 208 - Holding Your Own at Jack's (and an alcohol radiation factoid)

Alcohol is radioactive too—at least the kind we drink. Rubbing alcohol usually isn't, unless it was made organically—that is, from wood. In fact, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tests wine, gin, whiskey, and vodka for radioactivity. A fifth of whiskey must emit at least 400 beta rays every minute or the drink is considered unfit for human consumption.

...from Physics For Future Presidents, by Richard A. Muller (W. W. Norton; New York, London; 2008)

A little factoid for you, Dear Reader. Something you can pigeonhole the resident science geek in your local bar (or wherever) in the event you need to knock him or her down a peg or two.

In other, non-radioactive news, today at the bar I practiced the art of keeping my space.

I also practiced the art of holding my own in a conversation.

Now if you know me at all then you know I'm a natural listener. You talk while I sit right next to you and listen intently; occasionally I'll nod my head in a sage-like manner indicating I understand what you're saying; I'll rarely interrupt when you're on a roll unless I really don't understand something; I mentally catalog as much as I can (that's interesting) for later use in the blog.

Truth is it's hard for me to keep focus when I do this. The art of not letting my mind wander towards worries or issues or whatever's on the back burner of my brain while someone is talking with (well, to) me at the bar is a skill I've been practicing, but haven't mastered.

Part of this stems from my habit of going to Jack's to turn my brain off; sometimes I just want to zone out even when others are trying to talk to me. Other times I want to interact with others, but am too afraid of offending them or otherwise working up the nerve to really talk with someone in a truly interactive way.

What I'm coming to realize is that actively concentration based on just listening to someone isn't best in a bar situation. Yes, you want to listen to them obviously, but that's only the half of it. You need to talk back and otherwise interact with someone since bar interactions are primarily conversations and not something like unto a student-teacher interaction.

My problem is, I think, that since I'm not actively chatting back at someone my brain uses up its remaining potential to ponder other things (even when I'm zoning out), which ultimately distracts me.

Today though I didn't wait to catch myself mentally strolling away from the conversation. And I didn't allow myself to get "cornered" when there were several empty seats at the center of the bar.

As soon as space freed up I moved one seat away from a bar buddy of mine. Gave myself a seat's worth of space either side of me. Right as I did it, it felt good to have that space.

When my bar buddy saw this, he half-seriously said "I'm slightly offended you moved over."

I just said, "Don't worry about it" in a tone that really meant just that. Then I told him I needed some space around me and went right back to the tall can of PBR Tanisha had served me when I came in earlier.

And it felt just fine to do that. With space on either side of me, I could opt to not face my bar buddy if I didn't want to during the conversation that was sure to come, even if he turned to face me and look right at me while talking. Plus I figured he'd not put his hand (specifically a few of his fingers) on me to emphasize a point as he's wont to do.

Not that long after I moved over one seat my bar buddy chatted me up (toldja he would...and I was wrong about him not trying to touch me to emphasize a point: he reached right over and did it anyway, but at least the touching was much less so than before + I didn't have to deal with alcohol breath and him leaning in too close).

During today's conversation I picked moments to cut in. Not rudely, but in a way that allowed me to follow my own thoughts by saying them out loud. I asked questions and steered the conversation to topics tangentially related to the main focus.

I never realized just how thoroughly I let myself get run over sometimes (conversationally speaking) at the bar. Some folks at the bar like my bar buddy—well meaning though they might be—will just mow right over you if you let them. Even if you try to cut in, they'll keep pushing forward by talking over you. My bar buddy knows this on some level, I think. As you can probably imagine it's not that hard to talk at me if you want.

As I was leaving (that's another thing I did: when my beer was done, I got up even though we were mid-conversation...normally I'd stick around to hear the end or even buy a courtesy beer and stay to chat longer, but not today) my bar buddy told me he really enjoyed our conversation. He usually says something like this anywyas, but today he sure sounded like he meant it.

Based off today's success I'm going to continue trying to walk into Jack's with a brain that's revved up and ready to go.

That makes for the best interactions with other people + let's me establish my "space" at the bar.  I feel more of an equal that way too. And that's a good feeling.

See you Wednesday at Jack's!

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