I’ve known quiet people in my life, but one stands out as unique. Most quiet people have a voice, and when they speak, they really have something to say. Small talk is worthless to them, but they are not without a sense of humor and will occasionally participate in a joke or good story. However…
Late in the spring one year I was in the town of Rutland, Vermont to meet with the manager of the small store my company had there. I never quite figured out the culture of the area, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Some years later someone told me the harder I tried to figure it out, the worse the divide would become. The best way to function was to keep one’s mouth shut and just watch. Meanwhile, I was working hard at having a conversation with Josiah.
I arrived at the store and asked to see the manager. The employee raised an eyebrow, looked me up and down, and then pointed toward a corner of the store. I walked over to the corner where two men were looking at a few sheets of paper. I asked if one of them was the store manager. Both nodded ‘yes.’ I introduced myself to both of them, and one motioned me to follow him.
Walking through the store to the manager’s office, I realized no one was talking. There were sales personnel waiting on customers, but not a word was being uttered. The store was so quiet it felt almost strange. Once in the office Josiah sat down behind his desk and looked over at me until I began to squirm. Finally I sat down, reached into my briefcase for some papers, and handed them to him. He looked them over, signed them, and handed them back to me. Then he got up and walked out of the office. Not a word had been spoken.
I sat there for a few moments wondering what I should do next before he walked back in with two fishing rods and a tackle box. He reached into his wallet, pulled out his fishing license and pointed at it with his eyebrows raised. I reached into my wallet, shuffled through about thirty fishing licenses from various states until I found the one for Vermont. I lifted it up, pointed at it, and raised my eyebrows. Josiah smiled. We walked out to his truck, climbed in and drove a few miles to the east to a place called Kent Pond.
We were both still dressed in suits as we fished along the dam and from along the shore of this small impoundment, but we weren’t alone. I saw four or five other fishermen wearing suits or at least upscale casual during our four or five hours at the water’s edge. The fish we caught were pumpkin seed and largemouth bass, and after we cleaned them, Josiah wrapped them in newspaper and placed them in an empty cooler. From there we drove to a nearby house where he disappeared inside with the cooler for a few minutes. Soon he was back in the truck and we were driving back to the store. Silence reigned supreme. There was not a word about the fish, the fishing, the weather, business—anything. I wondered if this man could even speak at all.
Back in Josiah’s office, he picked up a few papers from his desk and handed them to me to look at. On top was a newspaper comic strip of ‘Barney Google’ and below it was one of ‘Li’l Abner.’ Underneath that was a stack of blank typing paper. I looked at these for a while, and then handed them back. He nodded in approval, and then got up and showed me the door.