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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Talking or Non-talking?

Gloria and I ate at a Cracker Barrel last night. We were seated across from a couple about our age. I couldn’t help noticing the couple didn’t speak to each other throughout their meal. They spoke occasionally to the waitress, but not to each other. I’m sure you have witnessed this phenomenon if you have dined with 70-somethings.

Maybe after five decades of marriage, some couples run out of things to say to each other. Fortunately, Gloria and I haven’t. But the episode of silence at Cracker Barrel spun my mental wheels. Not long ago, restaurants asked arriving patrons: “Smoking or non-smoking?” Now in some states smoking is not allowed in public buildings. But why not seat people in restaurants according to the following preferences? As far as I know nothing in the statute books prohibits restaurants from doing so.

• Talking or non-talking? Why not let diners sit in either a talking section or a non-talking section? I‘m positive the non-talking section would benefit a restaurant. Non-talkers would eat quickly and leave quickly, allowing the restaurant to rotate more people in and out. The more patrons served, the more income derived.

• Fast-eating or slow-eating? Like the previous option, a fast-eating section would generate greater income for a restaurant.

• Quick decision-makers or menu cruisers? Again, a section dedicated to quick decision-makers would move a crowd quickly from order to checkout and therefore generate more income for the restaurant.

• Tippers or non-tippers? A section set aside for non-tippers might appeal to the frugal or the stingy until they tired of being seated outside, next to the dumpster.

Churches, too, could seat worshipers according to their personal preference. They might offer the following sections:

• Hand raisers or non-hand raisers? I’m guessing the non-hand-raising section would fill up with white-haired and bald worshipers. They learned to worship quietly without ostentation. They might argue that people should be able to worship God without having to be distracted by a bunch of outstretched hands. It might be good to have the non-hand-raising section down front. At least, the people down front wouldn’t have to see the hands raised behind them.

• Givers or non-givers? A non-giving section would speed up a worship service. After all, why waste time passing offering plates to those who have no intention of giving.

• Listeners or non-listeners? A non-listeners section could be stocked with reading material: old bulletins, leftover Sunday school papers, and denominational newsletters. It probably wouldn’t work to include Bibles. I doubt non-listeners have much interest in reading a Bible. The listener section should be stocked with paper and pencils. Listeners at church might welcome the opportunity to take notes on the sermon.

• Greeters or non-greeters? Some churches ask their worshipers to greet one another. Why walk the length and breadth of a sanctuary in search of people to shake hands with? The process is confusing and time consuming. Those who don’t want to shake hands can huddle together in a section apart from the howdy-do worshipers. And the howdy-do people can complete the greeting task in a faster, more orderly fashion.

• Praise choruses or hymns? Once again, the section designated for those who prefer hymns may be small and filled with seniors, but at least those who sit there would be making a statement. Of course they may sit and sit and sit without ever hearing even a phrase from “The Old Rugged Cross” or “Crown Him with Many Crowns” or “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned.”

You may think of other seating preferences for church. But please don’t suggest designated seating for bloggers or non-bloggers.

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