Commentary and Philosophy Script posted May 21, 2024

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A Good Conversation

by Jim Wile

Part 1

Bob Hendricks is retired and now spends his days writing, having recently tried his hand at writing both fiction and poetry. He and his wife Irene are on their way to a party tonight for patrons of the community theater whose plays they often attend.
Bob: You know, Renie, I’m planning to try to engage a number of people in conversation tonight to get a better feel for writing dialog. That’s something I still find very challenging—writing realistic dialog that isn’t forced, and maybe if I really pay attention to how people converse, this will help. What do you think?

Irene: That sounds like a decent idea, but you know, you can’t be completely realistic because of all the “ums” and “ya knows,” and those dreadful “likes” that have invaded the language. Like, ya know what I’m, like, trying to say?”

Bob: (Chuckling) You’re right, plus all the twisted grammar and repetitions you so often hear. But I think it’ll be interesting to really listen to what people say and how they say it. I’m hoping to get into some good conversations.

Irene: Well, don’t set your expectations too high. A lot of people are pretty boring when it comes to engaging in interesting conversation.
They arrive at the party where they decide to split up. Bob’s first attempt at a conversation is with a man he sees standing by himself near the hors d’oeuvres table.
Bob: Do you frequent these parties very often?

Man 1: As little as I can get away with. Me, I’d rather be home watching basketball. How about you? Do you like watching sports?

Bob: Some golf now and then. Not so much team sports.

Man 1: Me, I’m strictly a Brooklyn Nets fan. Hey, did you hear they just traded D’Angelo Russell for Kevin Durant?

Bob: No, I didn’t.

Man 1: Do you think they’ll try to turn Durant into a point guard like D’Angelo or keep him as a forward?

Bob: Uh, I couldn’t really tell you.

Man 1: Yeah, he’ll probably continue to play forward for T.J. Warren who’s out with a foot injury. Of course, who really knows with the rotten performance from the point guards lately?

Bob: These deviled eggs look good. Nice talking to you.
Bob moves on, carrying his deviled egg and a glass of rum punch over to a sofa and sits down. He is soon joined by another gentleman similarly armed with refreshments, and they introduce themselves.
Man 2: Do you play golf, Bob?

Bob: I used to. I’m afraid old age finally put the kibosh on that. I still like to play the occasional round on the computer, though.

Man 2: Well, I just shot my career best round!

Bob: Really! What did you shoot?

Man 2: It was an 89. You ever play at Clearview?

Bob: Once a long time ago.

Man 2: First hole, I take a double bogey. I’m thinking: crappy start. Then second hole, I find the fairway bunker, hit the 5-iron of my life right onto the green, and sink the putt for a birdie! Third hole: long par 3. Just miss the green on the right, knock the chip up to 5 feet, but miss the 5-footer. Fourth hole—

Bob: Well, tell me about the last couple of holes when you saw breaking 90 was within your grasp.

Man 2: Nah, I haven’t gotten to the best part of the front 9 yet. Fourth hole, long par-5, I hit probably my best drive of the day, 3-wood to the—

Bob: You know, I see my wife beckoning from over there. I’d better see what she wants. Would you excuse me?
Irene wasn’t beckoning Bob, but he walks over to join her talking with an elderly couple, and they introduce themselves.
Irene: So, being a teacher’s aide, I was asked to accompany the class on their field trip to the farm. Now, none of these kids had been to a farm before and were quite unprepared for the sights and smells of a farm. One little boy saw an ox lift his tail and pass a load of excrement, and he said, “It looks like Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup. I’m never eating that again!” Don’t you just love kids’ perceptions of things?

Wife: (Laughing) My Aunt Millie grew up on a farm up near Concord, and she—

Husband: I thought the farm was near Groley.

Wife: No, it was Concord. You’re thinking of my Aunt Ethel. Now she was from Groley.

Husband: No, I’m pretty sure Ethel lived in Peterstown. It was Millie that lived in Groley.

Wife: Well, anyway, as I was saying, my Aunt Millie grew up on a farm, and I don’t believe she’d ever been to a big city until she was about 18.

Husband: No, you’re right. It was Millie that lived near Groley… I mean Concord.

Bob: Did she have any funny stories to relate about her first experience in a big city?

Wife: None that I can remember. I don’t know if we ever discussed it.

Irene: (Glancing at Bob, then back) Well, it was very nice meeting you. I think we’re going to go mingle some more.
They walk away.
Bob: Nice rescue. I was watching you from across the room. How did you survive talking to those folks for as long as you did?

Irene: Now, be nice, Bob.

Bob: This isn’t going as well as I’d hoped.

Irene: Well, keep trying. I’m going to go join those ladies over there. Catch up with you later.
As she leaves, Bob looks around for a group of men to join and spots three fellows about his age, engaged in conversation, and he makes his way over to the group. They welcome him in and introduce themselves.
Man 3 (named Ken): We were just discussing what we’ve been doing since retirement. How about you, Bob? How do you spend your days?

Bob: I’ve recently taken up fiction writing.

Ken: Huh, the only fiction I ever wrote was the time I left my wife a note saying I had to visit my ailing sister for the weekend when I was really going fishing instead.

Man 4: So, you’re a fisherman too, are you, Ken? Where do you usually fish around here?

Ken: There’s nowhere good around here. You’ve got to go down to Sherman’s Reservoir for that. They’ve stocked it with bass, and there’s plenty of ‘em.

Man 4: Anyone ever do any deep-sea fishing?
Bob ambles away, catches Irene’s eye, and signals her to come join him.
Bob: This is very discouraging. I’ve been part of four conversations now and have probably said fewer than 100 words, while the folks I’ve been talking to have likely said over 1,000. No one seems to want to hear what I have to say and what they have to say isn’t very interesting to me.

Irene: That’s the way many conversations go, sweetie. You should know that by now.

Bob: This isn’t going to help my writing much unless I want to write about boring characters. I think I’ll give it one more shot before throwing in the towel.
Irene rejoins her group and Bob sees an attractive-looking younger woman named Lydia standing by herself. He walks up and they introduce themselves.
Bob: Have you been to many of the plays this season, Lydia?

Lydia: Why, yes. Did you happen to see the recent production of Little Shop of Horrors?

Bob: I did.

Lydia: Did you enjoy it?

Bob: Yes. I thought it was—

Lydia: Gruesome?

Bob: I was going to say campy, but I guess gruesome also describes it, though it was tastefully done.

Lydia: My favorite character was Seymour. He was such a nebbish at the start. Who was yours?

Bob: Oh, that’s easy; it was—

Lydia: No, let me guess… Audrey?

Bob: Actually, I was going to say Orin Scrivello. He was so—

Lydia: Sarcastic!

Bob: Well, that too. I was going to say slimy, but—

Lydia: Oh, Bob, I see my friend Sylvia over there, and I have to ask her something. It was nice talking with you, though.
Lydia rushes off, and Bob throws up his hands. He’s had enough. He sees Irene across the room chatting with her lady friends and takes the opportunity to duck out for a while. He makes his way out into the night, crosses the street to a park, and sits down on a bench to ruminate about human nature. He sees another older gentleman cross the street, enter the park, and sit down on the same bench.
Other man: Mind if I join you? I couldn’t help but notice you in there talking with Lydia. Were you able to get a word in without her filling in the blank for you?

Bob: Not many. And every blank she filled in was the wrong answer. Let me ask you—is it just me, or is everyone in there terrible at conversation?

Other man: It’s not only in there. It’s rampant. When is the last truly good conversation you’ve had with an acquaintance?
Bob thinks for a long time about that.
Other man: See what I mean? Good conversation is a skill, and it’s very rare.
End of Part 1. Part 2 on Friday.

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