When you’re having a conversation via email, there is a certain leisure about it: you put your ideas forth, and eventually (sometimes immediately, sometimes after a year or more), the response comes back. A long dormant conversation can easily be picked up again, if the other party is willing.
One of the strangest things about having conversations face-to-face, though, is how abruptly they can stop, never to return again. The context – the temporary space around those in the conversation – is a part of what’s being said. When an interruption strikes, you may never get that conversation back.
Sometimes the cause of the interruption is a function of the space that you’re in ("Are you ready to order?"), sometimes it’s one or other person suddenly thinking of another topic ("Did you remember to buy milk?"). No matter the source of the interruption, there’s no going back.
This can be a relief, but more likely, it’s unwelcome. I can think of a number of times where an important discussion has been lost forever by some change of scene (or – more likely – an interruption that I’ve created through my too short attention span).
Something I’m trying to improve on is my ability to seize the opportunities of the temporary space, and make the most of conversations: I still look back over waster opportunities, but not quite so often.