One of the things I adore about Joe is that he always asks my opinion on every decision to be made. That may sound like a small thing, but for someone who is used to going with the flow, and thus living with whatever group decision gets made, this is actually a huge thing. My problem, and the reason I often don’t speak up sooner, is that I don’t usually have a strong opinion about something until it’s too late. I’m awful at making split-second decisions; give me a day or two and I can be extremely articulate about why something does or does not appeal to me. For that reason this practice of asking my opinion in the moment is both refreshing and challenging in a good way, but it also taxes my mental faculties greatly.
Just such a situation came up repeatedly during our last trip to Las Vegas, when multiple decisions had to be made about where we should eat, what show we should watch, whether or not we should get off this stalled Monorail to see what the problem is (the answer to that one is no; it will just take off the minute you’re out the door). And so my beloved would turn to me for the fiftieth time that day and ask me to express an opinion about the matter before us. Keep in mind that Vegas aims to suspend tourists in a hungry, thirsty, footsore fog, brought about by the ridiculous amount of walking you must do to simply get from the front door of a casino to the restroom they’ve cleverly hidden behind a bank of slot machines. This is not the optimal state for anyone to be making rational decisions in (which explains the popularity of slot machines and the all-you-can-eat buffet), and it was no easier for me.
But this time, when the options were laid out before me, I really tried to focus my attention in order to come up with the right answer. Suddenly my concentration was broken by a complaint from Joe: “Could you have a more blank look on your face?” Apparently, my complete lack of outer expression was taken to mean that I was ignoring the question, when in fact the wheels were turning in my head, just not noticeably. In addition, my failure to respond verbally was found to be annoying; couldn’t I make some sign that I was pondering the question, a thoughtful “hmmm….” or “let me think about that.”
That made me laugh. I had thought I was applying the most efficient solution to the problem—to actually think about it—and to have to stop that process in order to reassure someone that I was thinking seemed nonsensical. I realized that, as some people cannot chew gum and walk at the same time, I cannot talk and think deeply at the same time.
I know there are folks who thrive on that dual action (a supposedly common trait in extroverts), and while of course I can formulate thoughts while talking, I cannot give the utmost attention to something while still talking about it. It reminds me of the TV show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” in which the host, Regis Philbin, was always encouraging struggling contestants to think through their answers out loud. It was supposed to be seen as an encouraging gesture, but I believe it was more to address the fact that watching someone sit and think is incredibly boring. And I guess it also served to hurry the game along; if it were me in that chair, I’d probably wait it out a day or two, just long enough to come up with the million dollar answer.