Notes of introvert or why I bolted on a public lecture last night

So last night we went to USC for a presentation about interactive architecture by Nathalie Pozzi and Eric Zimmerman. Pozzi is an artist and architect; Zimmerman is a game designer. They have been collaborating on interactive installations, and I think it’s probably a pretty big deal collaboration–I am not an artist and I’m not much of a gamer, so I really don’t know. Zimmerman is a chirpy, happy, self-promotional guy, and he happily told us about his various projects, and then issued instructions for a game he wanted us to play involving our fingers and six other people.

I scurried out the door.

Yeah, you extroverts are rolling your eyes. Geez Louise, lady, can’t you even play along? After all, this guy has clearly learned that he shouldn’t be a “sage on the stage” in favor of engaging his audience, and that’s what all contemporary ed theory says.

But no, no I can’t play along. After a full day of meetings, where my *skin hurts* after all the social interaction, all I really want to do is listen quietly for awhile. If I wanted to play a game, there are casinos in LA where I can do that. There are coffee shops with board games and I could stand there an try to get a perfect stranger to play ‘monopoly’ with me–and I’m sure that sort of interaction is the stuff that relentlessly extroverted people who write about urbanism would *just love* as evidence that cities foster social interaction. But I never go to casinos and when I go to coffee shops I have my nose stuck in my book. Why? Because I hate noise and most games, and I don’t want to talk with strangers.

I get it: the speaker has developed play learning institutes–entire curriculum for kids centered on play–and his own brain gets probably squirmy if he’s supposed to sit there and listen to a lecture for an hour. I really empathize–I’m sure he wasn’t crazy about going to school as a kid and this is now his way of helping other boys and girls who want to interact and be stimulated externally.

But not all of us are those kids. Some of us really, truly, just want to be left alone to read a book, no matter what the new pomo-poco theory says about embodying knowledge. Some of us have a crippling fear of failure for performing in groups, some of us have an inability to understand verbally issued instructions (his game was very very simple; I still couldn’t remember a single instruction after ‘stand up’ because the anxiety was thundering in my ears). Some of us are socially odd, and others, when they notice this, will respond unkindly, or we think they will, conditioned from years and years of being bullied at school and *at work* for our social oddness.

I beg you chirpy extroverts–give the rest of us some escape hatches. Select five volunteers to demonstrate the game. There will be other chirpy extroverts like my lovely husband who will gladly participate. I try to build activities for people in my classes; there are games, lectures, activities, assignments, and books. Because we aren’t all the same people, and we all want to be in the world. Yes, pulling people out of their comfort zone is good practice for them, but you really aren’t likely to know just what somebody else’s comfort zone is before you really know them.