It was nice to see the parking lot full of cars. One of our favorite restaurants in the Grand Rapids area is a beautiful Persian restaurant with excellent food and exquisite authentic decor. We have come to enjoy and appreciate the subtle nuances in the cuisine and the mixed potpourri of individuals who amble in on any given afternoon or evening.
Today was not an exception as the table almost diagonally adjacent to ours was occupied by a mixed group of American and Australian diners. As a Nigerian American, it was nice to have another accent punctuating the air with laughter and conversation.
As we neared the end of our meal, the proprietor who was also assisting guests stopped by to ask if we'd like to try some Persian tea. Although we were stuffed, his description made the cardamon infused hot beverage sound so inviting, we decided to taste the brew. It was excellent!
As we savored our tea, I realized that something was a bit off. The table in front of us, which had been involved in a normal level of conversation was now speaking in hushed tones. I could decipher some of the conversation and it took me a minute to realize that they were responding at least in part to the conversation which had just taken place at our table.
As our tea was brought to the table by the proprietor, a conversation ensued in which we spoke about Persian culture and the country of Iran. Admittedly, not a conversation that you're likely to overhear in the average West Michigan restaurant setting. He talked about visiting Iran and his family and how he wished more people would make the journey to see his native country. He asked us about our home country Nigeria.
It was a comfortable and easy conversation as we connected on the level of fellow travelers in the diaspora who had immigrated to the United States. As he talked about Iran and the geopolitics of the area, I was struck by how different it is to have a conversation as human beings, not as the caricatures which we see so often portrayed in the media. Hearing the country of Iran described as a safe, orderly country was a far cry from anything I had become accustomed to.
Which brings me back to the hushed tones. It quickly became clear to me that this type of conversation was not just a rarity, but somewhat of an oddity. One which had stopped the conversation at the table next to us as they listened in. I left the restaurant thinking; I wonder how our lives would change, if we simply engaged in more human conversations? Conversations in which we listened to each other, shared our experiences, expressed interest in another's culture and were curious about learning something new. How would our worldviews be enlarged if we were less dependent on the incessant tethers of talking media heads framed within the small and large screens of our electronic devises?