The conversation

I'd been waiting before he got there, so when a man walked up and joined me at the bus stop, I said, "Good morning." He said the same right back at me, and that's where it should've ended, but no, he wanted to tell me it's going to be clear and cool today, with no chance of rain, and how about [local team], and shouldn't the bus have been here by now…

Looking into the distance for a bus, I smiled but said nothing. When the bus arrived, I said good morning to the driver, then took a seat and looked out the window. 

♦ ♦ ♦   

For years I thought my reticence was because I didn't know what to say in a conversation, and that's still part of it. There's nothing that needs to be said, and if it doesn't need to be said, why say it?

In a conversation, though, you have to say something. Gotta sparkle. Say something interesting, says the voice in the back of my head, but the only things interesting about me are things I'd never talk about with strangers.

And it must be the same for all the strangers in the world, because they never say anything interesting either.

Whatever you say will be judged, will be the basis of other people's opinion of you. And their opinion of you matters, right? 

Nah, not really, not unless it's someone you seriously give a damn about.

Conversations with strangers are open auditions for friendships, but it takes 10,000 conversations to find even a casual friend, and like a conversation, that's asking too much.

In 99+% of casual conversations, the same questions are asked and answered — reruns, recited by different actors who'll tell you or ask you about the weather, and where did you go to school, and soon ask and answer my anti-favorite question, "What do you do for a living?"

What I do for a living is whatever it takes to live, but it's not interesting, not impressive, and not worth the effort of talking about it. Everyone wants to know, though, so they can snap-judge me by my occupation. Or they don't want to know, but ask the question because the script tells them to.

The script is what powers most conversations. You have your lines memorized, tell the same jokes and stories, ask the expected questions, give the expected answers, and chuckle when the script says to chuckle.

How many times can one person endure all of that?

If anyone wanted a real conversation, I'd say "Hello, I'm Doug," and then tell them that we're at the edge of the end of the world, that climate change is going to make life nasty, brutish, and short for your children, and nastier, more brutish, and shorter for their children's children. I'd mention in passing that democracy is a lie, advertising is brainwashing, the church is diddling your children, corporations shouldn't be allowed to exist, the bees and butterflies are almost gone, and your wife is cheating on you.

Nobody wants to hear any of that, so instead they talk about Succession and Survivor and the high price of cheese. That's almost every conversation, and almost always I'd rather not.

Of course, conversations are sometimes unavoidable, and with many years of effort I've gotten better at the phony sparkling. If a situation demands, it, I can make conversation, but I'll do almost anything to avoid situations that demand it.

Why bother with a conversation? We're here, you and I, a few feet from each other. We should acknowledge that, smile and say hello, and then say as little as possible.

That's why I'm the guy who says "Good morning" at the bus stop but shuts down anything else, then goes to the office and says next to nothing all day, and offers a hello if someone's at home but hopes there's nobody, then goes into his room, closes the door, pets the cat, and says to himself, my, what a lovely evening.



  1. It would take me more effort to not say anything than to just go along with whatever the small talk is. I figure it's people's efforts to be friendly to one another and it's better than treating everyone with contempt or worse. I wouldn't sweat it. If someone doesn't want to talk, that's fine, too. I don't understand why it's ever an issue. There will be always be those clueless people -- autistic in some cases -- where they can't read the non-verbal (and sometimes verbal) clues. I learn to avoid them when I can.

    1. I'm serious about my introversion. It takes lots of energy and effort for me to hold up half a conversation, and I never want to waste that effort on talking about the weather or the local sportball team.

      Sometimes I do, though.


🚨🚨 BY THE WAY 🚨🚨
The site's software sometimes swallows comments. If it eats yours, send an email and I'll get it posted.