Time for a mate?

When was the last time you had a good old-fashioned chat with a friend? No phones or computers around, just great conversation.

I arrived in Greenwich, CT late Thursday night, and by Saturday we were involved in the worst storm the area has seen for about 40 years. The wind was howling and the rain was pounding down. Then the power went out and stayed out for 24 hours (some people we know were affected for 72 hours or more).

With no Internet and not wanting to waste our phone batteries, my mother and I settled in for a nice quiet evening. Later, I spoke to many other people who ended up doing the same. They had ‘quality time’ forced upon them, and they remembered how great it can be. I worry sometimes that relaxed conversation is rapidly becoming a lost art.

When I lived in Argentina in 1981, we used to get together with friends and family nearly every day to talk and drink mate (pronounced ‘ma-tay’). Mate is a green tea-type drink, full of caffeine, which you drink through a metal straw. The mate ball is filled up with hot water before each person drinks, and the whole experience is one of patience and calm, no hurries or worries. Just friendship and sharing. It’s true that in those days there was no Internet, hardly anyone had computers and some people didn’t even have telephones. We used to just drop in on each other, unannounced many times, drink mate and chat. I miss that. Maybe people in Argentina still find time for uninterrupted get-togethers like that, but I have a feeling things are busier and more frenetic now (I would love to hear from you if you live in Argentina and find time to drink mate with friends – and it only counts if you are not checking your iPhone or BlackBerry every few minutes!)

I’m making a personal commitment to start drinking mate with friends again. I may have to teach them how to do it, and we all may have to re-learn how to switch off, even without power cuts.