I've noticed something and I wonder if other people have as well. I don't sit and do nothing very well, and since I do a lot of waiting in doctor's offices, this is a constant challenge. My first line of defense is to always carry a book with me. The trouble is, I am often waiting in doctor's offices with a child and it seems a bit rude to bury my nose in a book and ignore him or her. So I have a knitting bag that always has a project in it and I drag around with me. I can knit, not have to sit and do nothing, and still pay attention to my child. It works. As a bonus, I have made a lot of small knitted projects over the past few months.
Now, when I have a book in my hands or (horror) don't have anything to do, no one approaches me. Everyone sits in their individual bubble and politely ignores each other. But, when I am knitting, it is another thing entirely. I would say that at least once (sometimes more) when I am knitting in a waiting room, someone will start a conversation. Usually it is about what I am knitting. Sometimes it's even to ask what it is exactly that I'm doing. (True story.) But I don't think there has ever been a time when someone didn't say something. This even happened in the waiting room of the large counseling center where TM's therapist used to work. I can't think of a place where people's individual bubbles are thicker and people pretend harder that they are not there.
[An aside. This is kind of sad, because long about year two of therapy, I would have been more than happy to chat with some of the parents there. Raising a child who requires the help of a therapist is not always easy and some of the parents who showed up looked so stressed and unhappy... and deep inside their protective bubble... that I longed to chat with them. It just never seemed as though my overtures would have been welcome. Probably I was wrong and I should have just said something. One does get braver (or has fewer filters) as one walks the path of a therapeutic parent.]
All this to say, I think that a person who is knitting is seen as a safe person. Think Miss Marple. I think there is also the whole car ride phenomenon going on as well. Have you ever noticed that your children will bare their souls when you're driving in the car together? It feels safer for a couple of reasons. One, you are not looking at each other. It can feel intimidating to tell emotional things when someone is looking right at you. And two, someone is driving and thus the full force of their attention is not directed at one person. It gives some emotional space. (It also means that the parents sometimes has to work really hard at not running into things.) Knitting does the same thing. Plus, because it is not a skill that every person has, it also arouses curiosity. It is a little bit fascinating to watch a ball of yarn become something useful just by wiggling two sticks around.
I'm curious. To my knitting readers, have you noticed this? And just in general, are you more likely to strike up a conversation with someone who is doing handwork if you are in a waiting room?