PW: The “Triplets” narrator is one hell of a listener. If I were to name one quality the he possessed that contributed to his being an ideal listener type, it’s that he had a lot of “free time” available to lend an ear. But there has to be more to being a good listener than having a free hour or two. What qualities do you ascribe to good listeners?
CC: In the immortal words of Axl Rose, “just a little patience.” I say this having spent a great deal of my youth sitting at the counter of a little place in my home town of Champaign, IL called Merry Ann’s Diner, drinking cup after cup of coffee and chain smoking cigarettes while listening to regulars, cooks, and waitstaff shoot the shit about local politics, their lawn care regimens, their dissertations, the way they like their hash browns cooked, and so on. Then, in my early twenties, I found myself working third shifts at a gas station, and in my middle and late twenties, I spent time bar tending while also working as an addictions counselor. In all of these situations, I was exposed to a pretty diverse subsection of people who would have been easy to write off as flat characters in the narrative I’d constructed out of my own daily routines. But what I found while sitting and standing across counters and bars and tables with businesspeople, retirees, graduate students, recovering addicts, union contractors, homeless people, university professors, etc. is that, if you’re generous enough with your attention span, you’ll eventually be confronted with something unrecognizable, something you wouldn’t have seen or experienced if you weren’t paying attention, if you weren’t willing to engage. When I’ve allowed them to be, those have some of the most important moments of my life.