Tuesday, January 20, 2004

#178 Superpowers

Most of us have seen the question on the chain e-mail that asks: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Hear what others have chosen and why at This American Life. Have you listened to this show on public radio? If you miss the show on the air, be sure to check it out online.

Listening to my surroundings is something I thoroughly enjoy and try to do often. Maybe it is because I have voyeuristic tendancies or maybe it is because I'm simply nosey. No matter why, I think growing up listening to public radio helped fuel that hobby as did listening and watching Charles Kuralt on CBS's "Sunday Morning". He was such a wonderful storyteller, but to completely tell a story he included the entire setting, including sound. When listening to public radio, the sounds heard set the scene. You can easily close your eyes to imagine the setting of an interview and no camera is required. Your mind's eye becomes the lens and the story unfolds in an imaginative way. I sometimes have a hard time communicating with someone across a table when I'm engulfed in listening to a setting. One such time happened while at a Waffle House on a motorcycle outting. I couldn't stop myself from listening to the waitresses and the cooks yelling at each other. Their yelling was the standard method of communication, it wasn't out of anger. The waitresses would bark out an order in a Waffle House/roadside diner/greasy spoon code like "smothered, covered and scattered". The order would be repeated, one right after another, quickly without missing a beat. All the while, the waitresses were still carrying on conversations with the customers, they were talented, to say the least. In addition to the conversations were the expected sounds of oldies tunes playing overhead, glasses and cups tapping against the table tops and eating utensils clanking against plates. It was distracting in one way since I paid little attention to the conversation at my own table, but overall it was entertaining. I would bend my head forward and cover my eyes to look like I was yawning, but actually, I was closing my eyes to absorb the atmosphere that was so full of sound.


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