A Game of Catch

I really don’t know what happened.

She came into my place of business with a smart phone in her hand.  That in itself is not unusual.  Recently, I have even become used to customers who spend their whole visit filling the air in my shop with the words of one side of a conversation.  Merchandise is selected as they talk about the woes of dating, or the disaster of yesterday’s calculus exam.  Frequently, they even come in while receiving instructions from a friend about what product they should select while in the music store.  The last variety of call, I can tolerate.  The others?  Not so much.

This young lady, however, had the phone in her hand, not up to her ear.  Maybe we could get this one taken care of without interruption, if we hurried.  We sailed through the initial stage of our transaction.  I found the book she wanted and the girl stood at the counter, prepared to hand over the payment for her purchase.

Too late!

The phone in her hand buzzed right about the time she proffered her debit card.  Instead of raising the offending device to her ear, she typed in a message on the tiny keyboard and then clicked one last button.  Looking back at me, as if seeing me for the first time, she visibly jerked a little.

“Oh.  Sorry.  I’m having a political argument.  Most of the time, I’d just wait to answer, but he’s really making me angry.”  She shrugged her shoulders, as if to indicate the hopelessness of her position and laid the card on the glass counter top, sliding it to me.

As I ran the transaction through my card terminal, her phone buzzed anew.  She looked down at it and sighed, a loud indicator of her frustration.  I wished for a moment that her partner in communication could hear the sigh himself.  Perhaps then he would refrain from further messages.  I handed her back the card and the receipt to sign.  She motioned for me to wait, intent on the screen on her phone.

Did I say it was a smart phone?  They may not be so smart, if they can’t hold a message for a minute or two, while their owner takes care of business.  Then again, it may be the owners of said pieces of electronic gadgetry who aren’t so intelligent.  It was obvious that this lady was agitated, but also just as clear that she was a willing participant in the ongoing argument which was taking place.

By now, you may be wondering if I’m ever going to get to what happened that was so confusing to me. What happened is that before she left the store, this young thing was arguing with me!  Worse–I was arguing with her!

Pen and receipt lying in front of her, she continued to peck away at her little keyboard.  With a final angry flourish, she banged on the send button.  Seeing that she was starting to sign the receipt, I stated (a little smugly) that I didn’t get into political arguments anymore because they were so pointless.  I didn’t know it, but she already had me roped in.

One short little sentence at a time, she drew me into her web, first asking my opinion about a comment her texting friend had made.  From my answer, one tiny point after another, she extrapolated a position until she thought she knew what I believed and then she sprang her trap.  Before I knew it, she was not only arguing with her partner in crime on the phone, but she was going back and forth with me about the same subject.

Evidently, she didn’t have anywhere else she needed to be.  She just stood, leaning on the counter, and argued both in person and virtually.  Periodically, the phone in her hand would buzz again and she would turn her attention to the other combatant, taking a momentary truce in our battle of wits and leaving me to gather my thoughts about me once more.

It was in one of these silent moments that my head actually did clear and I saw what was happening.  Unlike her, I didn’t have time for this activity.  On top of that, I really am convinced of the futility of arguments.  When she turned her attention to me again, I spoke quietly.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t intend to argue with you.”

She snorted.  “We’re not arguing.  We’re debating.”  It was obvious that she was actually enjoying this and wanted to continue the argument.

I wasn’t and didn’t.

Moments later, she left, disappointed that I would not continue with the verbal game of catch.  I have to wonder; who wins such a game?  One party winds up a thought and throws it full speed at the other.  Deftly, the second participant catches the thought and throws another one back at the same speed.  Back and forth, the ideas fly, never taking root, never resting long enough to get a fair hearing.

Does anyone ever win a game of catch?

Before she was out to her car, she was clicking away at the buttons on her smart phone again.  Angry?  I don’t think so.  She was just doing what came naturally to her–still playing catch with words and ideas.  She had no intent to stop, nor indeed, to take action on any point of the discussion.

I’m not going to quote the usual scripture verse about living with a contentious woman.  It might fit the circumstances, but to dismiss her actions based solely on her gender seems to miss the point entirely.

No.  Her actions are those of many today, both male and female.  Eager to discuss, to debate, even to argue the current state of things, they decry the actions and opinions of those in power, as well as the actions or opinions of anyone else who disagrees with them.

The problem is that folks of words and arguments are seldom people of action.  I have been such a person as the former.  I want to become the latter.  I can’t get there by repeating the mistakes of my past.  I will never accomplish any of my goals as long as I simply stand and discuss the ways and means.

There is little more than enough energy to just perform the task.  If we spend our energy in talk, we’ll lose the window of opportunity to get the job done.

Every day, we see an amazing number of people who are intent on drawing us into their web of conversation.  They are at work constantly.  They don’t always walk in our doors, but they will use whatever tools at their disposal to waste our time.

There are still more people around us who actually need us to get busy.  They are awaiting the result of our efforts.

I’ve told you before that the red-headed lady who raised me suggested to me frequently that I would argue with a fence post.  She was not wrong.  That said, I’m learning that it’s really not the fence posts which trip me up anymore.

The pesky people who lean on them–or on my counter–them I’ll have to learn to avoid.

It’s time to be up and doing.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.”
(Proverbs 26:4 ~ ESV)

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
(Walt Disney ~ American cartoonist/businessman ~ 1901-1966)

“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor, and to wait.”
(From “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~ American poet ~ 1807-1882)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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