I can’t find the original quotation, but Ian Nairn once described the pub as something like ‘the perfect place to be alone with other people’.
A few weeks ago, Ron Pattinson asked this question on his blog: “Why bother going out at all if you don’t want to interact with anyone?” I bristled slightly, but let it go. Then, this morning, ‘py’ said something similar in the comments on this post by the Pub Curmudgeon, and I thought I ought to try to explain myself.
When someone explained the idea of introversion to me a few years ago, I felt greatly relieved to have been ‘diagnosed’. Here are two simple ways I’ve heard it expressed:
- If faced with a choice of spending eternity alone or with a group of strangers, the introvert will choose to be alone.
- Extroverts gain energy from interacting with other people, while introverts spend it.
I’m an introvert through and through, but that doesn’t mean I’m unfriendly or socially inept. I turn it on when I have to, and there are plenty of people who seem to enjoy my company.
But when I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough. I sometimes feel exhausted the next day, too, as if I’ve got a hangover, and need to be alone for a day or two to recharge my batteries.
Where does the pub come in? Well, sometimes — and it might only be every four or five weeks — I feel an urge to be around other people. If I’m feeling really full of beans, I’ll perch at the bar, say hello, and hope to get included in the conversation. Usually, though, the operative word is around — I like hearing the murmur of conversation without actually wanting to have one. I find a corner, read a book or a newspaper, drink a pint or two, and go home with my need for company nicely topped up for another month.
And I don’t think I’m doing the pub ‘wrong’ because I’m doing it differently to you.