Monday, May 06, 2013

We need to talk

We all engage in idle chit-chat, often every day, often several times a day. Nobody really wants to get involved in someone else's personal matters when they say, "Hi, how are you?" It's just a polite way to acknowledge someone else's existence. Everybody knows that. This is not to moan about how we've all lost touch with each other and how much better the world would be if we all took better care of each other. Geez, what would we do if they replied, "Thank God you asked! I have these polyps on my genitals and I haven't been able to talk to anyone about it!" We'd freak out, that's what. Plus, all that added empathy would wear us out. We'd all be a whole lot busier and we wouldn't be happy about it.
Still, maybe we have let things slide a little too far. What we should say, if we're interested in being honest is, "Hello, I want you to know that I see you occupying this same general chunk of space at the same time as me. I do not find this circumstance unpleasant. In fact, it's nice to know you are not dead and that I am not alone in the universe." And then the other guy says, "Yes, I agree." This is really all that needs to be said, although you could add the person's name if you know it. But that is not what happened to me the other day. This is:

"Hey, how are you?"
"Not much. How about you?"
"Pretty good, thanks."

Then we both just kept going. Neither one of us thrown off enough to bother to correct or even address it.

"How are you?"
"Not much."

Obviously, we each had presumptively loaded some dialogue into our brains and that encounter was supposed to either go like this:

"Hey, how are you?"
"Not bad. How about you?"
"Pretty good, thanks."


"Hey, what's up?"
"Not much. How about you?"
"Same here, thanks."

Neither one of us cared enough to prepare to be spontaneous beforehand nor did we care enough to correct ourselves afterward. The fact that we had each rendered the other's pre-formatted responses inane didn't matter. As it turned out, we didn't have a conversation, we just tossed some words that translated into utter nonsense at each other's general direction and went on our individual ways, neither richer nor poorer as a result. It might as well have played out like this:

"Hey, banana crisper?"
"Tornado muffin. Roller chicken?"
"Mango beetle fart."

This was literally the least two human beings could do in terms of having a verbal encounter. I suppose we could have just grunted at each other, but that would be considered rude... even though it would have actually made more sense.

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