Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day, and the Lost Art of Conversation

Tuesday's office tea time with Kathy: Irish soda bread with strawberry preserves and Earl Grey tea. The plate is from the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop. The Irish tea cup: from my trip to Ireland, which I have such fond memories of.

On this St. Patrick's Day, some musings on what the Irish are famous for: the gift of the gab - something Americans seem to have lost, at least face-to-face. Northern New Jersey was hit very hard by severe storms this past weekend. I was myself without power Saturday evening into Sunday afternoon.

Something curious happened in living rooms, shops, and elsewhere in the area: conversation. This was such an odd and phenomenal occurrence that our local news source,, ran a story on it.

"People don't do this anymore, talk to one another," said Mary Hanlon of Ridgewood. "Everyone is talking to one another, that's nice."

Kathy's weekly tea time is supposed to provide a much-needed break for busy office workers who are in meetings, on conference calls, or in front of their computer. Yet so many have even five minutes to spare to talk to one another and just enjoy this delightful treat. Most grab the snack and head straight back to their cubicles. Why? Smokers unapologetically take breaks for their bad habit, so why do we feel guilty spending a few moments indulging in some "me" time with a cup of tea and discussing the latest books we're reading, films we've seen, or other non-work related topics of conversation?

I always say in an age of all this connectivity: e-mails, Facebooks, text messages, and more, people seem oddly more disconnected than ever. I am so grateful to have grown up before all of this technology. I recently saw a brother and sister (around 8 and 10 years old I'd guess) compulsively text messaging and thought it was the most depressing sight. I also think it's contributing to a culture of rudeness.

My friends and I actually wrote, gasp, hand written letters to each other in college. I still have many of them, and have a good laugh at how we tormented ourselves over men whose last names I don't even remember. Letter writing is another lost art.

Reflect on this story, described in

"Even as their 150 foot pine tree lay across their roof, Sunday Jack and Mary Newman of Paramus said they were grateful for the increasingly rare, quiet family time they shared with their three sons.

In the darkness, with no power, they had sat with their sons in the family room, in the warmth and glow of the fireplace.

They spoke, with no cell text messages to check, no Facebook status updates to glance at, no telephones vibrating or ringing."

Fallen tree aside, that sounds like a perfectly lovely scene to me.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Celebrate responsibly. Learn more about why so many are eating green bagels and drinking green beer. I will enjoy an Irish Magners cider at home - far, far away from any Irish pub today.

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