A few days ago, late in the afternoon, I was sitting in the bathroom at work. The bathroom in question is a large, public one with three stalls, eight urinals, and four sinks. Given the size, it's possible I went unnoticed. It's also possible that I was overly quiet, having brought this very iPad in with me to play a favorite soccer game while I sat.
In any event, as I sat there for more than few minutes, three different men came in. This was, again, in the late afternoon when there is usually no one around and when someone in a service business like me can get a little "down time." So I was surprised to have so many visitors to my humble abode. But I was even more surprised by what they did in common.
All of them talked to themselves.
Historically speaking, in anecdote and in literature, maybe even psychological journals, the person who talks to himself or herself is considered to be bit of a loony. Talking to oneself is a mark of someone who has lost it, as in touch with reality, with one's surroundings, with one's sense of dignity even. The classic example is Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman, who lives an entire internal world of the past where he either relives or recreates once-important conversations. When Iago finally tips the balance in Othello's mind, Othello is seen talking to himself. Ahab mutters to himself.
I'm not willing to make the same judgement about the men who were in the bathroom. I couldn't hear a whole lot of what they were talking about. I heard one talking about "four more" of something. Nothing else was that distinguishable.
Often, especially before a big trial or hearing, I would hear my wife talking in the shower while I was ironing a shirt.
Here's my suspicion: a lot of people are talking to themselves these days. Our brains are so crammed with things we have to do that the internal conversation is one way that our brains work out problems-- things we plan to say or things that we wish we had said in a battle recently passed. While I know that the research now says that it is actually impossible to multitask, that does not keep the brain from trying.
And so, a man in a bathroom in front of a urinal letting it all out as a kind of relief is not surprisingly letting go of some other things as well. That he thinks he is alone and cannot be heard only adds to the freedom of sorting through a problem.
I have found myself talking to myself sometimes, usually in a car, always after the fact, realizing that what I thought I was thinking I have actually been saying out loud. And I know that when I am cutting grass, safely inside a cloud of noise and noxious fumes, I am rehearsing entire conversations I would like to have but never will. My anger comes out behind a lawnmower, as do my imaginary retributions.
I don't want to sound an alarm, but it is surprising, is it not, that three men would walk into a bathroom where each thought he was alone and start talking to himself? Sure it's statistically unfair to extrapolate too far from that small sample, but this nothing more than an amateurish blog, and so I will do so freely.
We have to talk things out with ourselves. Out loud. Verbal. We need to hear what we say, even if we don't know that we hear it. Man to man or woman to woman. Self to self. Life has gotten too complicated. We are trying to do too many things at once. We are juggling jobs with too many bosses and demands, as well as families and bills and services required, people and deadlines we have to meet, outside obligations of churches and civic duties, and all of the little demands of keeping a life running
That's something that I thought I underheard once in a bathroom.