Sunday, September 25, 2005

Three Guys Wasting Time

So, yesterday, I remember why I went back to school and got my MA. I was tired of wasting time with people who have nothing better to do than argue over trivial matters.

Reverse to the end of my 43rd year. It was a pleasant Saturday, and I thought I'd join my friends at a local independent coffee place and chat. God only knows why, given the history.

Sure enough, I walked up and found my three friends-J, G, and S-arguing.

Now, as everyone knows, the two things you're not supposed to bring up unless you want to start an argument are Religion and Politics-right? Well, how about grammar?

The four of us are English teachers. The subject of debate was grammar. S warned me as I approached to keep going before I got sucked in and, like a fool, I sat down anyway. J and G were silent, but both were fuming. It was as if they were two cats locked in mortal combat. You know, bodies, claws, tails all entwined, occasionally a growl would seep out from one of them.

From my perspective, G would get passionate about something and J would bait him and G would bite and tempers would flare. G would usually become visibly angry. J would pull back and egg him on.

It was usually about school stuff. Like grammar.

For the life of me, I could never figure out why these guys wanted to spend so much time talking about their jobs. We all spent enough time on our jobs.

So, anyway, it was on a day like that that I decided I could spend my time doing something productive. I invited all three to join me. G declined. J showed up one time to check out a class, but never enrolled. S enrolled, but didn't finish. I began to spend my Saturdays and Sundays at Starbucks studying. Got a lot done.

So, I decided to join S and G at Starbucks yesterday, another beautiful day. G and I somehow got on the topic of country music. One interest I share with G is an interest in music. Whenever we used to do this, J (who has since moved to Connecticut to be with a lovely woman he met at a Yeats Seminar) would get bored and change the subject.

G made the comment that Country Music, as we know it, was pretty much invented by the Carter family. Now, it could be that "invented" is an inaccurate word-but, at that moment when the energies of several musical sensibilities converged and generated a new kind of popular music, the Carter family were standing pretty close by. There may have been others, but I don't know their names. And I'm pretty sure that most Country performers would give the Carter family a great deal of credit.

Yes, there were twangs and lilts floating around in the air for centuries, beginning in the British Isles and wafting their way to the Appalachians in this country. But the Carters were among the first to snatch them and record them.

S began saying that it wasn't true and that there were probably many others as responsible. But S didn't know that. He was just being contrary. He couldn't name anyone and he started insisting that, whenever G made a statement like that, he should be prepared to prove it.

Echoes of J.

The point being that, if I wanted to be in a Socratic seminar, I'd go back to school. If I show up on a pleasant Saturday afternoon, I'd like to keep things pretty informal.

S baited. G bit. G's face turned red, he shouted obscenities at S. S went into passive-aggressive mode, saying things that he knew would make G even angrier. The lovely afternoon was ruined. I took G's side for awhile. Pretty soon, we all just left-with me following G trying to calm him down-the guy has enough health problems and doesn't need that kind of crap. As we left, S came running after to basically make the same point he had made pretty feebly before. We all got in our cars and got out of there.

I can't understand why anyone would want to spend that much time so unproductively.

You know, last year, I had the idea to start that Ukulele Sunday thing and I got caught up in other things-visiting family, mom's illness and subsequent move to assisted living, the writers' conference, etc. Maybe now the time is ripe. I could feel my blood pressure rise yesterday. I left pissed.

All I know is that, anytime I play my ukulele, it is the best meditation and blood pressure medicine I can take. And, when I'm done, I'm a better ukulele player.


Jim said...

I used to believe the academically-promoted view that debate is an intellectually-refining practice. Now I think it often appeals to folks looking for a lazy way to show off one's (as formally defined) critical-thinking skills without having to leave one's mental box; a form of spiritual self-aggrandizement chosen by those whose egos are more fragile than they'd admit. That's why it's harmful in shows like "Crossfire". It isn't real, and can do damage.

And I'll debate anyone who asserts otherwise!

Donita said...

I think that's called "jerking off".

vivage said...

After a while all that debating turns into blah, blah, blah ala Charlie Browns teacher.

Billy Canary said...

maybe S & G should start a band.