Non sequitur

10 Jan

Christmas Picture by Anna
The other day I was partaking in a women’s group when I found myself relating a story about my uncle to them. As a vice-president of the airlines and the person in charge of the stewardesses, he was required by his bosses to make sure that certain stewardesses were on the flights that John Kennedy took when traveling to and from Florida. Whether or not my uncle was commanded to provide them to make sure Kennedy got good service, or whether the president was adding on to his bevy of women is not clear. I guess you would call my uncle an unusually attentive host, but that is not the problem I’m focusing on here. The social problem for me was that I was guilty of something that has always plagued me–the non sequitur, or the comment that does not follow the proceeding one.

When I finished or tried to finish my brief story, I looked up and was greeted by six pairs of bemused eyes. They had been talking about the difficulty of flying by air these days and I had skipped to the infringement of Jack Kennedy’s personal life on that of my uncle.

It’s been hard for me over the years to explain how my mind works–how to get across that what other people see as the deep disconnects of my conversation are actually entertaining diversions. I have always thought and talked in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. Maybe everyone thinks that way and I am simply not as disciplined in my speech as everyone else. It certainly has annoyed some people over the years, but I can’t decide whether this habit in my conversation is more a hindrance than a help in getting along with other people. I have found that these unusual disjunctions have often helped me in my writing because it has aided me in coming up with unusual associations.

But the negative response to my whorls of conversation has been upsetting to me over the years. One day in the kitchen of the duplex where my senior-year roommate Laurie and I lived, Laurie broached the topic of my constant sampling of her food from the fridge. She pointed out the fact that she could not partake of my continual diet of peanut butter and crackers and Diet Pepsi. I neglected to point out that if she followed my diet she would probably be thinner. However, that was not to be the end of her critique. I started to speak about an entirely different topic and she flew off the handle: “What does that have to do with what we were talking about?” she said. This was the same person who yelled at me once for eating a donut in front of her, so I tempered my discomfort with the thought even if I did get off the topic, she was often ridiculous.

Speaking of the other kind of ridiculous, the topics of my conversation often veer from the profane and lowbrow to what some might consider highbrow. I tend to be the kind of person who is less comfortable with middlebrow dialogue. However, I am equally comfortable with topics ranging from gossip about movie stars (often garnered from People or the rags that accompany the candy displays in supermarket lines) to more intellectual conversation about books and my favorite authors.

This morning I behaved in a way that has often enabled me to participate in an intelligent, pertinent way to a discussion. I attended a meeting for elementary tutors at TST Boces. When the first chance for discussion came up, I raised my hand and explained what my experience had been. Since the meeting pertained to math, not my strongest subject, I needed to “strike while the iron was hot,” and before the conversation perambulated to a point where I could wend and wind up the discussion into some faraway corner of my mind.

If I am honest, I have to admit that I have often switched topics because I was bored and that sometimes my leaps of tongue are intentional attempts to wire myself into the current discussion. I may be rude or confusing, but at least I am participating in group talk rather than looking dreamily out of the window, something I did in Cayuga Heights Elementary as a child. It’s ironic that I’m back tutoring at the same school where I was once so shy.

2 Responses to “Non sequitur”

  1. DH March 3, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Hunh. This explains a lot about you!

  2. You’re teasing me? :>)

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