We talk to friends we've never met before

Robert speaks to everyone. When we're in the grocery store, he'll spy a shopper, go over, deliver a one-liner, and move on. It's always with humor.

I have to admit, I also have this tendency to talk to anyone. My sister says that Robert and I have never met a stranger.

"Extrovert" describes us both. It's a good thing there are a lot of "introverts" about so that we have a willing - or perhaps not-so-willing - audience.

One day, we were walking around our neighborhood lake and saw a couple we had never seen before. In no time, we started a conversation - actually, it was more like two monologues: I talked at the lady, and Robert at the man. They stood patiently, silently, and then walked on. After they'd turned the corner, I started to laugh. "Do you realize," I said, "those two never said a word? We just yakked, yakked, yakked, and then they left."

Not long ago, I had to make an ironclad rule. After we've gabbed with neighbors or strangers, we must not make any comments for the next two blocks. The reason? Robert's bass voice carries a good distance. He's been known to boom out after we've chatted with a neighbor, "Her hair used to be black!" Or, "For a guy on his third marriage, he sounds a little weird!" Perhaps it should be four blocks,

Robert's congeniality shows up best when we go "lady" shopping. He patiently holds my coat and purse, and when I come out of the dressing room he's very frank in his opinions. While he's waiting, he talks to anyone who happens by, usually a woman shopper. He'll comment on her outfit, how the Yankees are doing - any little chatty remark.

Today we were in a department store and it began as the usual scenario. But when I caught up with Robert to show him a pair of corduroys, he was standing by the door - silent, for once. He was listening to the tale of a stranger relating, car by car, date by date, detail by detail, every automobile he'd owned since 1952.

I was ready to leave so I joined the two with the expectation that Robert would say "bye" and follow me out the door. But my husband was caught up in the monologue. I took my purse from his shoulder, and gave him a look that said, "Let's go." I went out, got in the car, and pulled up to the door. Just then, Robert and his new friend walked out. Mr. Talkative yelled, "I think your wife wants to do some errands!" Robert waved and got in the car. Then we sped off.

Our next stop was lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We sat down and ordered our usual.

We sat without speaking. Customers around us conversed as they ate. Our food arrived; we ate our soup and sandwich. It took us all of 20 minutes. We got up, put on our coats, paid for our meal, and left. As we drove away, I smiled. What do you know? We two talkers could sometimes be reflective. The sound of silence was refreshing.

But I knew it wouldn't last.

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