Tellers

I heard you’ve been traveling...

Oh, god, what a great trip. I mean awesomely great. We did the whole Southern Med. Y’know? Greece to Portugal. I don’t think anybody has really, really traveled until they’ve been to Greece – where everything started! We did it all in 2 and a half weeks. I learned so much. Have you been?

Not, Greece, but we...

Greece is the basis for everything. Go to Greece. I’m telling you. Then you can say you’ve traveled. Then we crossed to Italy. Great food! 

Yeah, I’ve been to Italy. It’s...

Oh? Did you happen to visit the town of Poggio?

No, never saw... 

You didn’t see Poggio?! Then you haven’t been to Italy. No. I mean it. I have a cousin who works in Rome, and he sent us three pages of everything we had to see, I mean HAD to see so that we could really, really say we’ve been to Italy. This guy is a brain. Went to Yale. He’s my brother’s adopted son. Yes. Hong Kong Chinese. Brilliant. Name's Ken. No, wait. Uhhhh, Kevin! Yeah, Kevin is just brilliant. He’s got two little kids, uhh, four and seven, and a wife and they all live in Italy, and my god, Italy!

Yeah, I have family in Lucca, so I... 

Oh, sure. Lucca. I’ve seen Lucca. We drove by Lucca, fine, yeah fine. We had a rented Fiat 279 and that’s the way to go. I’m telling you. We’ve got the whole itinerary printed and we’d be glad to give it to you so next time...but you MUST start in Greece. You haven’t tasted lamb, you know. You might think you’ve tasted lamb, but I’ll tell you the place to go for lamb....

The above is not a conversation. One person is a normal person. The other person is a Teller. Tellers don’t have conversations, though they think they do. It doesn’t occur to a Teller to truly engage with another person, to inquire, to explore. They are not interested in your experience of life, or of Italy, or of lamb. They are much too busy telling you their experience because, somehow, they believe that their own experience is THE experience THAT COUNTS and they must tell it, must tell it, and tell it and tell it and... 

Who the hell are these people? How are they created? And why are there more and more of them? Do you think it could be spreading, like a plague? 

My wife and her friend call them the “On and Onners,” but it’s more than just the abundance of their talking, it’s their blindness of ‘the other’ that worries me. They might as well be talking to a cactus. And rather than come to an ending or even take a breath, they’d much prefer to continue, going further and deeper into the forest of their thoughts and opinions, lost in the maze of their own making, telling you, for instance, all about a friend of their second cousin who’s name they are trying so hard to remember even though YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO MEET THIS PERSON. EVER. 

Are they afraid? What do they think might happen if they stop and say, “What are some of the places you’ve been to in Italy, and what’s your favorite?” Do they think they’ll be bored? Do they think they’ll burst open because of all the words they haven’t spoken? 

What is so important to them about THEIR STORY, so important THAT IT MUST BE TOLD – their recent illness or recent comedy or tragedy or oil change or the details of their past in New Jersey with NO stopping for the exploring of anyone else’s past. No. Their story MUST be told or.... Or what? Or they will feel unimportant? Insignificant? Small? 

Is it silence they fear? Is that why they have to pour non- stop words into that silence? What makes them vulnerable to silence, to being still? Why are they so afraid of your story and my story? It’s a mystery, and even an intriguing one. 

These are not bad people. Tellers can be annoying, but there is also something sad in this equation, something desperate and sad. I hope a psychologist does a study and writes a good book about this phenomenon, and lets us know what to do about it and how to protect ourselves against it. After all, it might be catching. Do you have any tips for me, any insights? I don’t want to hurt a Teller’s feelings, but I’m afraid, at some point, I might just grab a Teller’s shoulders, right in the middle of their story about their endless oil change, and start shaking them, shouting, LISTEN. LISTEN. LISTEN TO SOMEBODY!!!

Copyright Gerald DiPego 2015-2017