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January 3, 2007

Once again, as it often worked out these days, he found himself in a group of anywhere from about five to about nine (he hadn’t taken the time to count tonight, but it was definitely in that vicinity by a split second estimate), paying attention to two or three conversations at once.  Any group within such a range of sizes was inevitably too spread out to carry on a single cohesive dialogue, at least in a typical setting.  That is to say, the tables here were rectangular, an arrangement which forced primary interaction with the person across from you and the person next to you.  Generally, this resulted in chunks of four, comprising the four corners of a square, all turned inward and more or less facing the square’s center, the point at which all voices from the corners were directed.  Heads swiveled only slightly outward along the square’s sides when appropriate.  Any more than that, and you’d be outside the square, no longer a part of the square’s subtle mechanisms.  Of course, all this would be avoided with a simple circular table, but those were rarities.  Any circular table of a decent size left too much space in the center, space that would sadly go wasted; meanwhile, there had to be a lot more space around the edge of the circle to preserve easy maneuverablity through the room.  Geometrically, it just didn’t work. 

So everyone was left with tables divided.  It wasn’t really such a bad thing.  When there were too many people in one conversation, there tended to be a few people who dominated the conversation, preventing everyone else at the table from getting a word in.  Those others could usually make their own comments to the person next to them and exercise their voices thus, but only in a semi-whisper, so as not to interrupt the main speaker, and at most they would have the chance only for a brief tangent heard by at most two others before attention was directed back toward another speaker addressing the entire table.  Square groups allowed for almost full particpation from all involved.


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