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Can you hear me now?

noise signWhen someone has noise in their ears, you have to touch them to get their attention.

A woman is sitting on the two-seater sofa at Starbucks. We, a group of three with coffees in hand, prepare to sit down. There are two free seats, plus the seat on the sofa next to the woman. She does not see us. She does not hear us. She has ear buds firmly affixed in both ears. Her laptop is perched on the arm of the sofa which faces the window. Her books and several wads of paper (yes, someone who uses actual paper!) cover the “vacant” seat. She looks intently at her screen. She has a pony tail. Guessing, mid-twenties.

We speak to her pleasantly, “Excuse me, can you…?” No response.

A bit louder, “Excuse me, can you…?” No response.

We have now gotten the attention of the women sitting catty-corner. They look at me and smile. Ah, the younger generation, they seem to say.

I take two steps over to the young woman, so engaged. She does not notice. I touch her on the arm and she turns. “Excuse me, but can we …?”

She is startled. Looks at her pile of refuse and immediately begins to gather herself. Her papers. Her books. Her bag. Then her laptop and cord. She up and moves to a small table by the window. Where she can plug in again.

We hadn’t meant to dismiss her. Just share a seat with her.

***

I am running along the sidewalk. It is sunny and warm. It is noontime and many people are out. Several are walking toward me. Each alone. Engaged in their own conversation. Attached to the cord which extends from their ears. My greetings go unacknowledged.

I approach a man who has stopped, facing away from me. His feet are spread. His head bowed. His eyes riveted by something on the screen he holds in his hand. I must divert completely off the path to avoid a collision. He doesn’t notice.

***

The world, this world, our world, will not know we are near unless we touch them. Their eyes and ears are engaged. Their taste and smell are suspended. Touch is the only way to reach them. To reach out to them. To move them.

We must touch each other to gain access. To acknowledge each other. Not as an intrusion but as an introduction. We want to know you. To greet you. To share space with you.

Our world is a very noisy place. If we listened to the silence, what would it say? If we listened to each other, what would we hear? Touch me, with your story and your life.

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