I am not the most social person in the world.
I know what you’re saying. “But how can a person that delightful and engaging be mildly antisocial? He seemed like a charming raconteur who would eagerly share a tale of whimsy with anyone. Why, I would have assumed he would be the life of any party!”
While all of these things may be at least partially true (Except that charming raconteur bit. That is 100% fact.), I still do not seek out conversation. Sure, I will talk to people occasionally and even convince them I am enjoying our conversation, but the whole time all I want is to go to a quiet room, take a few deep breaths, and wait for that person’s prattling urge to finally pass.
There are a couple reasons for this. One is the inability to abbreviate stories. If I am listening to a story, I want that person to hit me with the main points, get the punch line, and then get out of there. The longer a person talks, the more they risk my attention span dissipating into nothingness. I will feel my eyes glazing over and before I know it my mind has begun pondering a story I read once about former Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. He said he would have bitten an umpire’s ear off, but would he really? I wonder how long a suspension would be for removing an umpire’s ear with your teeth…
The other main reason is, quite simply, I probably don’t care. I don’t mean to be rude. I do care about the people I am having a conversation with most of the time. If it is a deeply personal conversation, I am more than willing to listen, offer up my advice, lend a shoulder to cry on (Figuratively. I wouldn’t let just anyone literally cry on my shoulder.), basically do whatever is needed to help that person through. If it is a humorous anecdote, I am very willing to listen and laugh along with everyone else.
Some things, though, are just non-stories.
As much as I try to avoid the situations involving non-stories, it seems to be impossible. This happens more often than not at work. Trapped and unable to leave, lest I be fired for not being at work, I must sit there and participate in these conversations. To make it worse, I know my work-life will be pure, inhumane torture if I were to let on to any of my coworkers that I do not care to discuss their preference in pencil type or what their dog did before work. (Spoiler Alert: It was either super-adorable or involved their poop. If it involved their poop, I am more prone to be interested.)
Today, I found myself in this situation.
I had just finished checking my email for the 83rd time when I felt a strange sensation enter the room. I glanced around, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Turning back to my computer, I felt a cold chill. I knew it was about to happen.
Conversation was upon us.
“You drink black coffee?” came the question from behind me. I knew that there was no escaping it now. I had been drawn into the trap of conversation.
“There is a type of coffee called cappuccino. It is very good.”
Instinctively, I began to look for a way out. Maybe someone on the other side of the room needed help. Unfortunately, there was just one other person and he was proving himself very able without my assistance. I could try to get to the restroom, but I had been there just ten minutes ago. I don’t want to make people think I have some sort of bladder condition.
“Have you ever tried instant coffee? Some of them are fromMalaysia. They’re pretty famous for their coffee.”
I felt myself nodding along, as if my agreement that there is instant coffee fromMalaysiasomehow added to the conversation. I took a drink of the coffee that had jumpstarted the whole conversation and got prepared. If I couldn’t get out of this conversation, I was going to devote all of my attention to our chat. I would listen like nobody had every listened before. I would listen the crap out of this conversation.
“I try to buy things on sale. It saves me a lot of money.”
I nodded enthusiastically. I knew all about sales. I myself had shopped at many sales in my time. In fact, I would guess that 95% of my clothing came from stores that were having a sale. It was a great way to save money and…
“I had a small mango yesterday. It was very sweet. Mangos are good if you have the right one, but you definitely need to use a knife or you’ll tear up your teeth.”
Wait! How did we get here? I started thinking about sales and next thing I know we’re talking about the proper and improper way to cut a mango. I swear I was trying to pay attention. I wasn’t even thinking of anything off topic.
“I like fish. I have some canned fish that’s pretty good, but not great…”
I tried my best to follow what was happening, but the mouth in front of me had become a blur. Every thirty seconds, I would find that my mind had drifted somewhere different. I had contemplated, in no particular order, the American League Central division, argyle socks, the differences between kettle corn and regular popcorn, dogs, Richard Nixon, my need for another cup of coffee, and rubber band balls.
Suddenly, my random thoughts came to a screeching halt.
“Do you like it?”
Now, I knew there was a correct answer here. I tried to piece together everything I had heard. Unfortunately, my mind was a complete blank after the canned fish. I figured there was a right answer, but who knows what it could be. I didn’t have time to flip a coin. I would just have to pick “yes” or “no” and commit to the answer.
“Uh…yes?” I said.
“Yeah, Orange Ruffy is good. I…”
Hooray! I had done it! I had answered a question correctly! Maybe I could be a conversationalist after all. I had added something into our discussion and it had even made sense. I was sure I was the best. I…
…Was not paying attention. Again.
Fortunately, the rest of the conversation was question free. I would have been in big trouble if I had been forced to replicate the miracle of the perfectly answered question.
At5 o’clock, I eagerly made my way out the door and headed home. I was ready for a quiet, conversation free evening. Since I’ve been married for more than a year, my wife and I are pretty much out of things to talk about, so I knew I would get just that.
Tomorrow I would do it all over again. I would be forced to try, once more, to pay attention to what someone was saying whether I wanted to or not. Tomorrow, though, I would definitely make it happen. I would be paying attention to everything that was said to me for sure.
Just in case, I would hold in my pee. No one can get upset if you end a conversation to use the restroom.
- Super Heroes: Identifying your Kryptonite (stephsbubble.wordpress.com)