I had a work meeting across the border the other day, in the beautiful Netherlands city of Arnhem. On our way back, l decided to take the train instead and let my boss drive back alone, seeing it was a more direct route to my house.
Unfortunately for me, Murphy´s Law is constantly at play. If anything can go wrong, it will. So there l was waiting for my 18:29 departure, when they suddenly informed us that a goods train had broken down on the rails and no trains could travel to Germany at that moment. The next train would depart at 19:29.
Two hours later we were still stuck in Arnhem Central Station with no other possibility to cross over the border. Finally at around 21:30 they arranged for a bus to take us to the Emmerich city of Germany and from there we could then proceed with the train.
It was at this point that my evening gained momentum and 5 hours later l would still be baffled and confused about society and its norms. A fellow passenger and l struck conversation as we headed out to the bus, giggling on how we both were calm while all around us others were losing their heads in anger. We both saw no point in agitating ourselves really for it was not anybody´s fault nor did we have any other choice but to wait. An alternative route would have meant another four hours of travelling.
By the time we reached the front entrance, another middle-aged man had joined us and we amused ourselves with his statistics of how often this had happened and how accurate the reason given to us was, seeing he was a regular traveler on this route and apparently had worked for a train company before. Our trio soon grew to five, and we soon set sail through the conversation seas tackling everything and nothing and even my former President and future prospects of Zimbabwe.
Anyway, the bus finally arrived and we hopped on, and of course the friendly man sat next to me with the remark,
” Na ja, wir haben uns ja sehr nett Unterhalten, darf ich…?” (we just had a lovely conversation, may l?)
to which l offered the seat next to me with a smile !!! Little did l know.
The bus had hardly driven off and he had already picked up from where we left. Soon enough he was on about how the bus was taking a longer route to the highway and how we would not make our connecting train, before l could respond he was on to the history of this lovely city filling me in on all the pre war and post war details, before l could respond he had switched on to NRW German region and how it is badly governed, before l could respond…
This was just the first five minutes.
When we hit the highway, my fellow passenger switched on to full mode and this time around he was unstoppable l tell you. We were now on his court case, and fervently he narrated the events of how he and his friend had started a project and and and… I tried to be attentive at first and follow the story, but gradually my occasional grunts were replaced with nods and eventually nothing. His voice soared above the still night sky and above the hum of the engine. His tone was so emotional like one possessed. He talked and talked and talked, now even oblivious of the people around him and indeed forgetting his bearings.
The over-the-shoulder stares started to attack us from all angles, but oh dear l was now slurped in my seat, totally drained of all energy and l could not even. Throats were cleared, false coughs initiated, the usual grumbled grunts, but my fellow passenger was already in the Cloud. Only Siri could get to him now. My head was spinning, the bus was full and l weighed my options, to speak out or not to? And l found myself having this conversation with myself while fellow P provided the background soundtrack.
It was okay for me to speak out and tell him l was tired right? But the way fellow P was going on, l began to envision him being one of those cat man, just glad to have an audience for once. I could hurt his feelings? Maybe he was sick? Something was definitely not okay because we all can read situations, body language etc. How would he respond? aggressively? In the end l decided to let him be and l endured the forty-five minute ride. At some point a woman called him out and fellow P just acknowledged the disturbance and rumbled on immediately after as if nothing had been said. When l stepped off that train, one lady gave me a pat and said “ du hast was gutes getan!” ( you did some good). But did l really? Did l have to put myself through that?
Recently l have noticed l am beginning to struggle with communication. In the times gone by l have always prided myself in my ability to be blunt and call a spade a spade. But experience has continuously shown me that people say they love a straight talker but in reality nobody likes being on the receiving end and as l have learned the hard way it hurts people’s feelings.
What troubles me the most is, what then is the perfect recipe? l have done trial and error and unfortunately messed up some of the most important relations l had with people l care for very much in the process. l lost someone who mattered to me only because l went with the bottling approach and instead of the situation improving the lava seeped out disguised as anger and bitter sarcasm. Before that l tried the honesty approach but rather than resolve the conflict it set up a wall instead. For years l went with the being me approach, but the history books between mother and l can tell you that didn’t work out smoothly as either.
so how then does this communication thing with society work?
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.