The sound of silence

I can be quiet and shy, but most people will say that, once they get to know me, it’s hard to get me to shut up.  I’m very enthusiastic and I love telling stories.  In fact, I created this blog as a way to channel some of that energy away from my friends. This way, I can tell as many stories as I like without feeling that I am subjecting my friends to some punishment.  Just the poor, unwary readers who stumble upon the blog.  😉

Of course, I haven’t always been this talkative.  In fact, there were many parts of my life that I passed by in relative silence, observing from a distance the interactions of others.  My field work, also, has sometimes taken me far from human interaction and conversation.

The longest I ever went without speaking was seven days.  It doesn’t sound like a particularly long time, but if you think about it, how often does that actually happen?  Even when you are quite alone and have a quiet disposition, there are cashiers to say, “credit” or “debit” to, phone rings from telemarketers that you answer with a grumpy “hello?”, and “excuse me”s on the bus or train.

My seven days of silence were spent alone, out in the bush on a remote island off the coast of Australia.  I was doing field work and I quite simply did not encounter another human being for the duration of the week, giving me absolutely no reason to utter a single noise.

I was not in the habit of humming or singing to myself.  I’m not one to mutter in solitude or whisper in the dark.  So, for seven days, I was silent.

At the end of the week, I stumbled into a grocery store in the nearby tiny coastal village, ravenously hungry after living on meagre portions for so long, but very close to penniless.  I picked up a can of beans for 35 cents (I’m dating myself, surely) and headed to the register.

“Good morning,” the cashier said.

I opened my mouth to reply, and was stunned when nothing happened.  She didn’t notice (too busy ringing up my item), and I massaged my throat for a minute while she gave me the total.  After I fumbled for the coins to pay her, she said, “Have a nice day!”

Again I tried to respond with a simple, “You too!”  This time, a giant croak made it past my lips.  She gave me an alarmed look so I coughed twice, grabbed the can, and fled.

I did eventually get my voice back*, but I will never forget that first moment of trying and being completely unable to make a sound.

*Unfortunately for friends and family.

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4 thoughts on “The sound of silence

  1. Such an interesting story. I’ve always been fascinated by stories of people being marooned on desert islands since I read The Coral Island (R. M. Ballantyne), I think I was nine at the time. I’ve always wondered what it must be like to be really alone. It’s not that I particularly desire it, just that I feel it must be a special experience.

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