Small black raindrops falling from the sky. The pattern of dots scattered across the blank page appear random. If it weren’t for the sequential numbers that accompany these smudges, I would have the urge to wipe my sleeve across the sheet and clean the apparent mess. I have fond memories of these puzzle books as a child, the mind racing three numbers ahead, connecting the dots in my mind, forming a guess at the final illustration. My fascination may have been due to the relative ease with which an artistic creation was produced. Or, it may have been the process of moving from one step to another, connecting the dots, and discovering what lies hidden within those specks of ink.
I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. ~Henry David Thoreau
I savor time alone with my thoughts. Driving in my car, sitting at my desk, walking on the street, sometimes even in the company of others, I am lost in my thoughts. It’s a great expansive universe waiting to be explored, millions of thoughts racing from neuron to neuron. Most of them escape my consciousness while some pause momentarily, providing me the chance to contemplate a suggestion proposed by the subconscious mind. The mental adrenaline rush is sometimes more compelling than the physical variety. I am never one to shy away from the opportunity for peaceful seclusion. Ironically, it is this withdrawal into self that often helps me appreciate that this is only half the picture.
Sequestered in my cave for eight hours a day, you would think I was as content as a bear in hibernation. However, unlike that bear, I have not fattened up for the extended time in my little grotto. When the grumblings from my stomach echo through the silence, it is like a virtual alarm clock telling me it is time for some sustenance.
I’m a deli person. Our local grocery store has a station set up specifically for ordering custom subs. My opening line is always the same: A whole Boar’s Head Italian on white, provolone, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, and just a bit of sub dressing. It is so well rehearsed that I know it as well as the Pledge of Allegiance. The frustration is getting to that first line often takes twenty minutes. The popularity of these deli offerings is evident from the gathering of patrons with tickets in hand. With every number called, “Now serving number 24”, each of us instinctively looks down at our number, performing our daily quota of math to determine how much longer we need to assuage the protests from our stomach.
Recently, a new option was provided for consumers at this deli. Online ordering. With a few clicks of a mouse, you could build a custom sub to your exact specifications, providing a blueprint for the quintessential lunch offering. It was pure genius. I was giddy. Swing by the deli counter, pick up the sandwich made fresh just for you, sitting in the tray for less than five minutes. In the store, through the checkout line, and back at work in less than ten minutes. Brilliant.
I have taken advantage of this opportunity on at least three or four different occasions already. But, I have realized that there is always something missing. It wasn’t the banana peppers, or the mayonnaise, or even the sub dressing. They were all there. What was missing? Human interaction. Pretty strange coming from someone who hoards personal time. However, it was in this moment that I completed that virtual connect the dot puzzle, revealing my own little work of art.
I never realized how much interaction occurred after the well rehearsed ordering details. It wasn’t until I didn’t have it front and center that I understood how much I missed it. Becoming familiar with each worker’s personality, appreciating the way tomatoes are put on before the lettuce to keep the sandwich from falling apart, getting an update on how a sore foot is recovering, pondering the next destination on a wanderlust list, playing meteorological expert for five minutes because these busy employees are confined indoors without a view. Trust me, I can relate. It’s a two way link of communication that cannot possibly be replicated in the online world.
That mental adrenaline rush is gaining momentum again. I now realize why I enjoy a quiet walk in the woods as much as a stroll down Broadway in New York City. I still treasure my time alone, but it’s the interaction with others that provides those racing thoughts and ideas, nourishment of a different variety for my philosophical side. My introverted and extroverted sides have a very symbiotic relationship, each feeding from the experience of the other.
Those rumblings from my stomach? I never would have guessed that my hunger for a sandwich was surpassed by a hunger for human interaction. A voice from behind the counter announces “Now serving number 42.” Yep, my turn. It’s time to feed my appetite.