More than 600 posts ago, we had an item similar to this:


“A gentleman has never been seated next to a boring person at dinner.”


   (It was an anonymous quote from perhaps a hundred or so years ago, and was found in a book of such things in a “Civil War” gift shop in Franklin, Tennessee. What more can we say about this?)


For more use the DOOR.




   Obviously, I feel that this is a worthy, memorable motto. Here are some observations about this chestnut:


   1.  It was probably created at a time when a nice sit-down dinner was a bigger deal than it is today. And when food, conversations, and flickering candlelight took turns being the main course.

   2.  It was crafted in a day when handheld communication devices were never a part of anyone’s wildest dreams.

   3.  “Gentlemen” had a classier meaning than usually identifying a male restroom or a strip club.

   4.  Perhaps “person” had just elbowed out “lady.” No matter…

   5.  Nevertheless, this underlines the importance of, art of, and risk of engaging in conversation with another human.

   6.  Further, this suggests that there’s more than sports and weather to fill the air with sound. That sort of detail is for elsewhere.

   7.  Conversation should first engage the eye and ear, then perhaps hearing and remembering a name. People usually enjoy hearing their name. A conversation is not a lecture–to of from you. There’s a skill to balancing things up. It’s fun to try and learn how. Remember, a dinner ends; it’s not a lifetime, and relief is never far away if things get out of hand.

   8.  Intrusive come-ons are not what this is about, and should be carefully avoided. But light conversation about something can stand out and be interesting–and encouraging. And there are “safe ways” to ask unusual questions. Example: Sitting in a restaurant working at a computer once, I noticed a women that seemed to be wearing glass shoes. Passing by, I said, “I couldn’t help but notice those glass shoes. Where did you find something like that? I’d like to tell my wife.” She smiled and made a brief comment and went back to work. When I returned to my table, there was a paper with a website written on it. I don’t think I overstepped.

   9.  I’ve written before about how I’d given a woman student rule a “thumb’s up” as I’d passed her in my car. I knew she’d had some tough experiences, but no details about them. She had quit running, but later after only a sentence of encouragement, she’d started up again. Three years later from Alaska she wrote me a 3-page letter thanking me for that–literal–thumb’s up.

  10. Back to the table. Make a point to find something and say something that seems halfway interesting. You might discover something. The worst you can do is make a fool of yourself. But 10 minutes after the meal everybody forgets.

  11. For practice, since dinners with others are pretty rare these days, observe in the long lines that switch back and forth for, say, movies or Disney events. I’ve made martial arts and car connections there. And whatever happens, 5 minutes later whoever was there is gone.

  12. Now I’m actually quite private. I don’t need to have more people around me. I enjoy my own company. So why such “intruding” and meddling? Among other things, I’m a writer and I like to collect names and details that I can recall at my keyboard. And a great lesson of  life that I’ve learned is that couple of words of unexpected conversation or so can have a big payoff. Why see something good and wonderful and not say so when others are too busy?

   I’ve reached a dozen…That’s more than enough…