On being … addressed

By Ingrid Sapona

This week I decided to finally go through some of my oldest file boxes of paperwork. I was determined to finally get rid of files, notes, tax receipts, and other such things that I’ve kept for too long as it is. Among the items I came across were old address books. I had kept them all these years because I haven’t always been good about including full contact information in my digital address book, especially when it comes to entries for friends and family members. So, for example, if I was sending a get well card to a long-time friend, I’d have to consult my address book.

In the spirit of the cull, and yet realizing that there definitely were some addresses I still need, I decided it was time to input information from my address books into my digital address book. I knew the address books were old – but it wasn’t until I started looking at them that I realized how old they were. One of them, which was held together with a rubber band, dated back to university. I started the project thinking it would be a pretty straightforward task of data entry. While it was that, it was so much more.

First and foremost it was a trip down memory lane. Though I used to hate messing up my address book with crossed out entries and white out, seeing all the address changes I had for many of my friends reminded me of how much our lives have changed. It was fun to trace the phases of their lives as they moved from college, to graduate school, and through jobs that took them to different cities.

It was also sad to see names of people that have died over the years. Many of them were family friends who were contemporaries of my parents – but not all of them. A handful were my age. It was sobering to think that that list will only grow, and likely at a pace that’s more rapid than I like to think about.

A few names were startling in a very different way – folks that ended up in the news – but not for particularly good reasons. (Disbarment and jail, to mention a few transgressions I’ve heard about over the years.)

It was also a head scratcher, as there were more than a few names that I simply could not place. For some of them the address provided hints as to possible connections (for example, an Ohio address is likely someone I knew during law school). But even so, I’ll be darned if I can remember them. One set of entries that had me especially perplexed was the name and address of one girl and an accompanying entry for her parents. The thing is, I usually only made note of the addresses of parents of close friends. If it seems odd to you that I’d have the addresses of my friends’ parents – think again. After all, parents tended to stay put and they usually knew where their kids were, so one could at least try to keep in touch via their original home address.

The exercise also drove home how the internet has changed the way we behave. There were lots of entries of addresses for institutions and organization I had reason to contact periodically. (For example, I used to have to formally request an absentee ballot for every U.S. presidential election, so I had the address of the board of elections in my address book.) There’s certainly no reason to keep such information now because it’s so easy to find it on-line.   

One of the biggest surprises was realizing how many people I’ve completely lost touch with. So many names produced a flash of a face long forgotten (and, of course, frozen in time) and a flood of memories to go with it. With some of the names, like people I worked with briefly, I wasn’t surprised that our paths diverged. In other cases, I felt a sadness, as I guess I thought the bond we forged was stronger and that our relationship would be longer lasting.

When I finished the project of transitioning entries from my old address books to my digital one, I had to laugh at the coincidence of finally getting around to doing this and it being Thanksgiving time. What better time to think about and give thanks for people that have come into my life at one point or another, even if we’re no longer in touch – they all enriched my life in some way.   

© 2013 Ingrid Sapona


On being … not just alone with my thoughts

by Ingrid Sapona

One of my favourite movies is What Women Want, with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. Like most women, I could instantly relate to it. After all, the notion of “self-talk” – that internal monologue that so many of us seem to have running through our head every waking moment –is a well-documented phenomenon. (You can even find information about it in Wikipedia.) Self-talk isn’t what I’m writing about here though.

The topic for today’s column came to me the other day when I saw the new Robert Redford movie All is Lost. It’s about a man (Redford) sailing alone in the Indian Ocean. His troubles start when his boat hits a shipping container that’s fallen off a cargo ship. The container punctures a hole in the side of his boat a bit above the water line.

All the reviews I had read mentioned that during the whole movie, Redford says only a couple dozen lines. In fact, nearly all the lines are part of a voice-over at the very beginning of the film. In the voice-over he’s re-reading the last entry he’s written in his ship’s log. Clearly, the dramatic reason for the voice-over is to make viewers wonder who the entry is intended for, who he has left behind in taking this journey, and so on. About the only other time he speaks in the film is when he tries to radio an SOS call and when he tries to get the attention of a loud cargo ship that’s streaming by. (Oh, and once, just once, out of sheer desperation he does say – actually, it’s more of a scream – the f word.)

As I was watching the movie, I understood that the whole no talking thing was a dramatic device, but I found it really odd that Redford (or should I say, the character he was portraying) didn’t talk to himself at all. Not a mumble, not a murmur, not even so much as a sigh – other than the one swear word.

I first realized how unnatural his silence seemed to me in the scene where he attempts to radio the SOS. The scene is quite dramatic because it unfolds over a series of actions that start with him lugging the heavy marine battery up on the deck from below. The VHS radio is also up on the deck – he brought it up in hopes the sun would dry it out.

As he carefully attaches the first lead from the radio to the battery terminal I suddenly felt as though it was me attaching the radio and as I was mentally going through the motions, I found myself (silently) mumbling: Please work, please work, please work. I repeated this mantra silently only because I was in a packed theatre. Had I been alone, trust me, it wouldn’t have been some form of self-talk – it would have been clearly audible.

Many times during the movie I felt almost transported into the action. And, whenever that happened, I also inevitably noticed myself (silently) saying something – whether I was imploring some line to hold fast, or reminding myself to close the cabin hatch, or sometimes just letting out the odd “whew” when something went right. And every time I suppressed a word or sigh (so as not to bother those around me in the theatre), I just couldn’t believe that Redford didn’t utter a sound.

I saw the movie with a friend who’s also a sailor and afterwards I mentioned that I found it hard to believe that a guy all alone wouldn’t be talking to himself as he did things. My friend said the only thing he found odd was that the guy didn’t swear more out of exasperation. Not sure if my friend’s comment was just in jest, I explained that the character’s silence made me feel oddly self-conscious about how much I talk to myself when I’m alone.

I was sure that after more fully explaining what I meant and giving him an example, my friend would say, “Oh, yeah – I guess I do that too”. But instead, he thought about it and said, “No, I don’t really talk out loud to myself – other than the occasional swear word …” I let it go at that, but since the movie, I’ve thought about it a lot.

I can’t help wonder whether it’s particularly uncommon to talk out loud when there’s no one else there to hear you. I’ve also wondered whether doing so might be more common for those of us who spend more time alone. Is it some sort of need to hear a human voice every now and then?  (If that’s the case, then surely a guy alone for days on end in a boat in the middle of a big, lonely ocean would have felt compelled to utter a few words out loud.) Or is talking to yourself out loud just a quirky habit?

Don’t worry – I don’t think I’m going crazy or anything. (Besides, there’s that old saying that there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself out loud – it’s only when you start to answer yourself that you have to worry.) But I do wonder whether others talk to themselves out loud much. What about you? What do you hear when you’re alone?

© 2013 Ingrid Sapona