Geometrically Speaking

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There are many ways to divide people up into groups. You can go with classics such as Republicans and Democrats. Meat eaters and vegetarians. People who watched The Munsters in reruns and those who preferred The Addams Family. Hellman’s mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip. But I tend to divide people who think in lines as opposed to those who think in circles. This is not a gender related issue. Line thinkers can be of either sex although they do seem to be predominantly male and circle thinkers do seem to be mainly women.

Circle thinkers start off with one topic, connect it to another one that connects to another one and so on, stretching out into infinity until they remember what they were talking about in the first place and return to the beginning to complete their initial thought. My friend Jane is a circle thinker of the highest order. Jane and I can be having a conversation about school lunches and from that springboard Jane will wander into a reminiscence about the kind of cookies her mother used to pack into her lunch bag when she was growing up and then move on to how the world became a much less tasty place when Coke manufacturers switched from cane sugar to beet sugar, then segue into a story about the classic Don Ho song “Tiny Bubbles”—the connection being sugar cane is grown in Hawaii—and finally return to the lunch issue with the astute comment that school kids have much better hot lunches than we used to but it doesn’t matter since they don’t appreciate them anyway and should really be forced to pack their own noontime meals. Having a conversation with a circular thinker can be a little dizzying at times but it is always interesting.

Line thinkers never wander off course. They think in bullets and excel at coming up with solutions to problems before the problem has been completely verbalized. An example of a conversation between a circle thinker and a line thinker would be the following:

Circle Thinker: I think my cholesterol might be a little high—

Line Thinker: What do you mean by a “little” high? What are your cholesterol counts? Exactly? Have you been to your doctor? What did your doctor say? How many calories are you supposed to consume in a day? How many DO you consume? Should you be drinking so much red wine? How much weight have you lost? Does your doctor know that you always order extra cheese on your pizza? How much does extra cheese cost? Why don’t you have a second diet drink instead of extra cheese? Or have green pepper on your pizza and take a walk if you’re so worried about your damn cholesterol!

At this point the Line Thinker leans back in his seat, arms crossed and a self-satisfied–if not downright smug–expression on his face since he obviously feels that he has solved the cholesterol problem while the Circle Thinker wishes wish she’d never brought up her cholesterol level in the first place.

Line thinkers are seldom at a loss for a solution—or for words—and never dither between choices. They know what they want and they usually get it. They drive everyone around them crazy until they get it but that is beside the point.

The fun really starts when a circle thinker and a line thinker marry each other, a scenario that is about as common as Tater Tot Hot Dish at a Minnesota church supper. I must admit that I do enjoy watching the expression on a Line Thinker’s face when a Circle Thinker is off on one of the many tangents that it takes to complete a story. It’s like watching a mother sit helplessly by as her first born is learning to tie his shoes—it’s obvious that she’s dying to jump in and cut to the chase but she also knows that her first born has the right to keeping looping the laces around…and around…and around. Indeed, she knows that he not only has the right but that he HAS to learn how to do it because there’s no way she’s going to follow him to college just to tie his freakin’ shoes.

As it most likely quite apparent, I’m mainly a Circle Thinker but can think in lines when necessary. My friends are mainly Circle Thinkers too although I do know several Line Thinkers who can think circles around me. And just for the record, not a one of them likes The Addams Family.

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