The Internet is a great thing. In ye olden days it used to take months to send a letter by ship to foreign lands. It took quite a long time to send people too. Roll on the day when we can just “beam up”!
In Dhaka, I met a wonderful man who spoke of the days, many years before, when he was first an expat. His wife admonished, “George! Don’t bore people…”, but I was always enthralled by his tales. He told me that his first overseas trips involved travelling by ship, but eventually air travel became more widely available. You could only do short hops, though, and at each stop you were obliged to dress for dinner! I don’t know if this was a wind-up – who cares? Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. (George Double-Barrel spoke very posh English and sometimes wore a kilt so, despite his mild eccentricity, I chose to believe him.)
Now, of course, we fly everywhere and wouldn’t think of dressing up to receive our airline food tray… but as usual, I’ve gone off the point a bit. Communication? Let’s skip phones, faxes, and all that and get straight to the Super Highway – the Internet. The speed of communication now is incredible; once you’ve got email you wonder how on earth you ever lived without it. I love it!
The only downside is that you don’t get any NVC (Non-Verbal Communication). Some people use funny smiley symbols and things to show they’re joking 🙂 I don’t really like them as I think they look a bit childish. But having offended people, when they couldn’t see I was only joking, I now use them occasionally if I’m in doubt.
A friend wrote recently about how easily things can be misconstrued. I agree entirely. When you know nothing of the person with whom you are communicating and, of course, they know nothing about you it’s easy to misinterpret things: “Where do you live?” – does that mean “So I can murder you in your sleep” or “I would like to have a physical relationship with you” or “I have fun reading your messages, I like you, and I’m curious to know more about you”? Do you have to spell it out? Let’s hope not or we might as well ship it.
Going back to NVC, how you move your body during any human interaction is supposed to be very important. Some years ago (never again!) this crazy guy called Mike Gilmore – he loves fame so I don’t have to worry about anonymity here – got me roped into a stand-up comedy show at the American Club in Peshawar. I have enough problems addressing a room of half a dozen friends so how I ended up doing a stint as a stand-up comedian… (It went quite well really.)
While rehearsing for this show we were lucky to have a couple of very talented professionals to help us – a CBS news cameraman and another guy who had written speeches for US Senators among other things. They videoed and criticised our practice run. I was quite shocked to notice that I delivered my entire ten-minute act without ever seeming to move my lower jaw. Ah well, that just goes to show that NVC maybe isn’t that important – unless I move other bits of me when I talk, but I don’t think I do?!
A few weeks ago, Dave and I met a couple of guys in a London pub. They looked young and pretty cool and probably wouldn’t have bothered with us but we happened to attract their attention. What happened was that I’d noticed a card on the pub table with a special offer – three pints for the price of two. There wasn’t really a catch, it was just that you had to order three pints and they’d give you them for the price of two. Naturally, we took advantage of that and ordered the three pints each round, sharing them between the two of us.
Eventually the guy on the table next to us couldn’t stand it any more and had to ask, “Why do the two of you always order three pints?” I thought about telling him I had an imaginary friend but instead showed him the special offer. They came over to join us at the table. Much, much later one of them observed that I ought to be a ventriloquist as I hadn’t moved my lower jaw the entire time. I love the Internet!!!