Communicate Without Words

communicate without words

He handed me my pencil and smiled.

A stranger and I communicate without words.

An operation affected his speech, but even so, I understood when he asked for a ride to the bus stop, and he understood when I asked where he lived, and together we figured out he lived minutes away from the neighborhood I was driving to, so I gave him a ride home. Together we communicate without words.

Then while he was maneuvering into the backseat, I figured out that he needed help getting in. It clicked when, again and again, he looked at me while saying garbled words.


“Help,” he said. Together we communicate without words.

Unsure about how; I physically picked up the heavy foot of a man I’d just met and move it so it could rest on the floor of my car; I did my best. In moving his foot, which at times I was afraid I was mangling, because I had to force it through a small space between the door and the seat, I touched the bottom of his shoe. Rather intimate, considering we’d met only an hour before, to touch the bottom of someone else’s shoe. While I was waiting for him to buckle his seatbelt – he told me he didn’t need help with that – I thought briefly about the bottom of his shoe, and all things considered, decided I didn’t care.

From the backseat, tire on the road noise, the GPS lady giving directions, and air conditioning on, and then turned down cause I was straining to hear, I learned what Tom had done for a living. We communicate without words.

“Tour bus operator.”


“San Francisco.”

He’d never had children. He has a grand niece. And he lives in a lovely older house on a tree lined street, which by the way he directed me to when, I prematurely changed to the right lane so to take his exit. And once on surface streets, he guided me to his home, replacing the GPS lady, who was also telling me where to go.

When we arrived at his driveway, he could tell me he couldn’t open the door because a plant blocked his way, and when I pulled forward to the spot I thought was convenient, he directed me to stop earlier, where, he knew the door could easily open. We communicate without words.

To get out, he slowly turned his body. Using two hands, one at a time he lifted each foot, placed them sideways onto the pavement and then hoisted his full frame out the back seat of my car. He stood. Then with a firm and deliberate intention, he shut the door. We communicate without words.

The best part happened when, before maneuvering out of the backseat, he picked up the mechanical pencil on the floor of my backseat, and, smiling, he handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I said, and I smiled too.

When humans can’t use words to communicate, we find out how deeply we can speak without them. Any minimal or wordless conversations you’ve had lately? Please subscribe to my blog and write about them.


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