The Community of Pubs

Pubs are “public places” where we convene for drinks, meals, and often sporting events.  I always sit at the bar.  At a table, I am left to conversations with my colleagues with whom I entered the establishment or, if by myself, catching up with email with far-flung colleagues.

At the bar, it is likely that I and the person next to me have nothing in common, except perhaps interest in lunch or a cold drink.  The televisions are likely showing some sporting event, or the news is showing “breaking news,” often of questionable recency.  I ask the person next to me what they think, and a bit of an autobiography may emerge.

When I lived in Hoboken, which purports to have the most pubs per capita, the person next to me was usually a Wall Street type, as the city drains each morning via subways and ferries to lower Manhattan.  Talking to hedge fund managers can get very repetitive as the only currency is – well – currency.

Living in Washington, DC is quite different.  I have encountered the play-by-play broadcaster for DC United, a woman who manages wine and cheese imports for the French Embassy, and an older retired fellow who used to manage all the US railroads.  There was also the chief economist for Fannie Mae and a man who staffed the NATO Desk at the British Embassy.

It is most interesting to talk with people whose experience base differs from mine.  I have found that people’s political views vary as widely as their allegiance to sports teams.  Asking them why they are fans of particular teams often leads to stories of childhood.  Occasionally, the person will volunteer that they once played for a team.  Very rarely, they indicate that they still play for a team.

Beyond being a naturally curious person, I like encountering a variety of perspectives.  People’s reasons or rationale are usually quite interesting.  I often find myself saying, “I can see why you say that.” If asked, I will offer my opinion.  However, if I disagree with them, I have never found it productive to argue with them.

I think society benefits when people interact with those beyond their tribe.  Within your tribe, issues and perspectives are usually reinforced.  You typically hear an echo of your own thinking.  For example, my tribe of university faculty members have a standard set of complaints and ideas for how things should really be.  I don’t learn much of anything in such discussions.

The community of pubs provides a bit of a “window on the world,” especially in a diverse city like Washington DC.  People’s interests, motivations and life paths tend to vary enormously.  A toast and a good game can lead to fascinating exchanges and insights into other people’s views of life.

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