Still on my date with JR, the quiet and intense man trying to woo me.
We enjoyed plenty of conversation over dinner. An Air Force pilot, he told me about a problem he was experiencing with another pilot.
A little background, this all occured during the first year that women combat pilots were joining the men. I knew a couple of these women and considered some of them friends.
JR told me about one woman (the one I didn't know well) who was annoying not only him, but the other pilots as well. "She won't shut up." he said. He explained how in the plane, they all wear headsets to channel communication because the plane is so loud. Typically, the pilots only speak over the headsets deliberately... to convey information... or to make a quick joke.
"But she's constantly talking on the headset. 'Ooh, look at that cloud!' It's making us all nuts!"
I mulled this over for a minute and I thought I could relate to this woman in some way.
I told him, "You know, I think I understand what's happening. She's one of a few women breaking into male territory. She wants to fit in. It sounds like she's going about it wrong, but understand that when women are uncomfortable silence is even more uncomfortable. If we're in a car with you and you're not talking... we assume you're mad at us. So considering her position... the silence is stressful for her and she has a need to fill it."
He sat silently and considered what I had to say. Finally, he said, "That makes sense. Thank you. At least now I know why she's doing it, so maybe it won't bother me as much."
Hmmm. Interesting. We went on to enjoy our meal, our wine and had a great time.
When we got back to his car for the 40 minute drive back to town, we continued to talk and had plenty to talk about. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow. For a guy who doesn't talk much - this is going really well." As I finished that thought... and became conscious again of the atmosphere in the car... there was a lull. Internally, I panicked a little bit - thinking about our dinner conversation. Oh no.
At that very moment, he broke the silence again. "I just want you know... " he said, "I'm not mad at you."
That's when I burst into laughter.