We had a club. Not the kind that you hit people with and not the kind you play golf with. It was the kind you frequent to have a good time. The place where “everyone knows your name” and generally speaking “we’re always glad you came.”
Small-town, rural Paraguay offers very little to teens and young adults looking for weekend entertainment. We decided to do something about that and opened a club. It was a place to watch a concert or a movie. You could participate in an Uno tournament or a PS2 play-off. Best of all, you could hang out with friends, listen to the latest jams, and front for all the shorties (in thug, that means “flex for the ladies”).
Our little entertainment oasis had just begun to gain notoriety when along comes the World Cup. WOO HOO! It’s South America–they love soccer. Paraguay’s national team made the tournament cut and was predicted to fare well. So, we seized the opportunity to use patriotism and sports lunacy in order to make a few friends.
I downloaded the schedule and set about connecting the TV to the projector. Once we had an acceptable signal we let people know we would be showing the games on the big screen.
It was 2:20pm and we had about 10 people come to watch the second round game. Paraguay made a shot on goal and I heard raucous cheering from the open window near the screen. A couple of minutes later more whoops in a mix of what seemed to be Spanish, Guarani and Pig Latin. I was sitting by the door so went to scope it out.
One of our neighbors was standing on his tip-toes with his head angled up sharply, trying to look over the window sill. It was incredible, especially considering he was totally smashed drunk. I invited him in to watch with us and he had a hard time finding the ground to take the steps. With a little help he made it up the three stairs and inside the club.
He just stood there, mildly bewildered, so I gave him some direction.
“Toma tu asiento,” or “Take your seat.”
I sat back down next to the roll-up door and started watching the game. A few seconds passed and my guest was slightly rotating to get his bearing.
“Toma tu asiento.”
He looked at me and I could literally see the words find purchase in his brain. His expression changed and he began to look around. He targeted a white PVC chair and seized it. I wasn’t expecting what he did next.
Chair in hand he spun on his heels and headed straight for the door. My mind began to reel.
“Well,” I thought, “I DID say to take a seat. If he leaves with it I’ll just let him have it. I guess I should have led him to a chair.”
He slowly staggered toward the door, made a hard left and sat his chair so close to me that the arms of our seats overlapped. He fell into his plastic chair and crossed his legs. Towards me. He was practically sitting in my lap. The only thing left to do was a bedtime story and a peck on the cheek. I could hear the snickers from the other folks, watching to see what I would do.
I wedged my chair out of the submission-hold being executed and started a conversation. A couple of introductory questions and the gate opened. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but at that point he didn’t care. He just wanted someone to listen. He started talking and never stopped.
I learned two things that day:
- Sometimes I think I’m saying one thing and something else entirely is communicated,
- Sometimes you don’t have to have the answers. Sometimes you just have to have the time.
Do you ever speak plainly and miscommunicate? Do you ever need someone to just listen? Are you a good listener?