By Matt Gordon
Yesterday someone canceled a meeting with me. Or, said another way, the universe gifted me an hour. No plans, no obligation, I was untethered from time and calendar.
I turned on the album Illmatic because I recently read an article about it. A couple songs in, I sent my brother-in-law a text:
Me: The Nas I’ve listened to is the Nas that makes its way to rural white kids—him collaborating with pop stars mostly. Have old stuff by him on today. Whoa!
I sent this because my brother-in-law knows hip hop. He proved it in his response:
Him: His second album It Was Written is one of my favorite albums ever
Boom! I had learned something about the world and about my brother-in-law. What great use of the time!
I wondered what he thought about getting a random text from me concerning an even more random topic. But I enjoyed the improv of it—the learning, the connection, the lack of reason given. Thing is, it sort of made sense for him to be my rap guy. There was some relevance, some appropriateness about the content of the text, even if the timing was strange.
I wanted to keep chasing this thrill of randomness, but remove the pertinence. I had discovered what I wanted to do with my hour. I wanted to try some non-sequitur living—communication that doesn’t follow our usual form or function. Just throw some things out to some people without explanation or expectation. None of the usual:
Hey, how’s your life?
Hope you are well!
Any big plans for the summer?
What’s for dinner tonight?
Nope. I know the range for those answers. Stroganoff. I want endless possibilities, a dash of conversational adventure. The beat was playing and I followed it:
Me: Clean Nas is really good.
Unsuspecting coworker: You listening in your office?
Me: Yes, and trying a thing.
We had never talked Nas before. She turned my text into a pretty practical conversation though. Shows her skills at communicating, at improv. I learned something about her ability and need to order things, and her talent at it. But chaos calls. Next . . .
Me: A car with a Keurig coffee-maker in the dash would be possible, doable, and popular with the luxury crowd.
Blindsided workmate: No way. Luxury people like luxury coffee
This one turned into a mini-brainstorm and then a favor. In a way, my Non-Sequitur Living (NSL) had become contagious. She hit me with this:
Her: If your ice machine in your fridge/freezer broke, who would you call?
Me: Mr. Freeze from Batman or Frozone from The Incredibles
I then implored if she was serious. She was, so I gave her the contact of this fridge salesman named Dennis that I know. It was the first time I’ve ever gotten to share about a fridge salesman named Dennis that I know. Magical.
Also, I helped my friend find at least one option on something she needed. NSL.
I then put two lines in the water at once.
To my sister I texted: Cloudy here
To another workmate: If trees came to life, you think they’d be standoffish?
I didn’t hear back from the workmate. I found that sometimes with non-sequitur communication you just don’t hear back. Maybe the person on the other end of the computer or phone or bathroom stall thinks the question or statement was meant for someone else? Maybe they hate you? Like the answer to the tree question itself, who knows?
This happened with my friend Jeff too. I texted him: How do you pick a good watermelon?
Radio silence. Maybe he is researching—needed more time?
I didn’t have time to think of Jeff’s abandonment, though, because my sister was getting back to me:
Her: In Columbia?
Her: I’m not following
Me: I’m trying a thing
Her: What’s that?
Me: Non-sequitur living
Her: Well, in that case, I have two cats.
Me: You get it. Feels good, right?
Her: My husband might be a pervert.
Things were really popping now! I was feeling good.
I ran into a teammate and she liked the idea. She texted her sister.
Her: Purple Rain. More metaphorical or literal?
Later this teammate told me this: A couple minutes later my sister called me half-asleep and confused. We talked for forty-minutes. It was great.
I was encouraged. And I had to use the bathroom. I decided to let my friend Zach know it.
Me: I’m headed to the bathroom.
Zach: Good luck?
An hour later I ran into Zach in the parking lot of our workplace. He asked about me about my gastro health. We’ve never reached that level of conversation before. Forget getting below news, weather, and sports—we had descended to the literal bowels. It was a delight.
I had to leave to go meet some guys to play soccer. Figured I should let someone out-of-context know. I texted another brother-in-law:
Me: I’m playing soccer today.
An hour later, I left the facility and looked at my phone:
Ryan: Good luck with your game.
Me: It was fun.
Ryan: I’m happy for you
When I returned to work, there were some instant messaging dividends from earlier attempts. Got into a conversation with a fellow I haven’t spoken with in years:
Me: hot dogs any good?
Fellow: 1) If this is a quote, my poor Thursday brain is not recollecting it and for that I am ashamed. 2) if this in reference to actual hot dogs, perhaps, because the blood drive, I haven’t partaken to this point so I am, alas, still in the dark
I had forgotten all about the company blood drive! Just as I had this intriguing person. But hot dogs had brought us together.
Me: I’m trying a thing today. Well, actually for an hour. I call it non-sequitur living. This question came into my mind. and I asked precisely one person it. without expectation or explanation. you are that person. it pertains to nothing.
Fellow: Non Sequitur was also one of my favorite comics
Fellow: Not the beverage, the comic
Me: didn’t know about either, honestly. looking into it now. really cool.
I looked at a few comics and he quoted Star Wars, which got us in a galaxy far, far away conversationally. It was stellar. Then we ended things:
Me: i have to go to a meeting now, but I have appreciated your time (as i always have when our paths have crossed). good luck giving blood. better than taking it probably.
Fellow: I’ll give you the venn diagram later. peace.
Peace, indeed. I felt it. What an odd, simple way of connecting with people. Like my friend Cole.
Me: what are your thoughts on climbing trees?
Cole: hahahahah. I dabble here and there. 11 year old Cold loved to climb trees.
I didn’t even know eleven-year-old Cole! Certainly, didn’t know he climbed trees!
Cole: what are YOUR thoughts on climbing trees
I like to think that he shouted the “your.”
Do you know the last time someone asked me about my thoughts on climbing trees? The answer would be, “what is never.”
Me: not sure. I think it is pretty cool. probably pretty natural.
I actually can’t put the rest of our conversation here, but it was a doozy. Very funny, it would just out someone from my childhood for being a complete weirdo. I hadn’t thought of that weirdo for a decade, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess, if not for NSL, it would be decades more before this repressed maniac strolled his way down my memory lane.
And that represented the best facet of my non-sequitur hour—you just never knew. Some people would ghost you, some would take nonsense and make it sensible. Some would join you down less-plodded paths, roads of connection less traveled. As I thought about the ways we do life and communication and the ways we don’t, I still have much to sort out. I was unsure if NSL would become my modus operandi, if it is helpful or harmful to the world, and I was no closer to choosing a good watermelon. But what I came away clearly with from this hour of unconventional living was a single lingering question that I’ll leave with you, If a turtle makes it way into your yard, what are the best ways of accommodating that turtle?