The kitchen talk show

There's no air conditioning in our house. We're in Seattle, a city that rarely reached the mid-80s when I was a kid, 90° once or twice in August, at worst. Open a window, plug in a fan, and you'd be fine. 

The city is hotter now, for reasons well-understood but aggressively ignored. Temperatures in the 90s are common, all summer long apparently, and have I mentioned? There's no air conditioning in our house.

With three fans blowing, all of them aimed at my head, and me taking two showers daily, my room is comfortable — but only in my recliner. If I stand up to get a book, the heat suddenly hits me, and holy hot-crossed buns, it is hot.

It's holy hot-crossed buns in my flatmates' rooms, too, but if the front door and back porch doors are left open all day, the kitchen and living room stay comfortably cool. One by one, my flatmates migrate out of their sweaty sticky bedrooms, grab a seat in the kitchen, and talk, all day.

And all day, I'm stepping into their conversations. Not every time I leave my room, but it feels like it. My only door opens to an alcove off the kitchen, and when I open it, there they are, two or three of them, talking again.

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The same breeze that keeps the kitchen cool keeps the living room pleasant, too. There's a couch and two well-stuffed chairs, but nobody uses the living room except to walk through on their way to the kitchen.

Why? I dunno, but the kitchen is where conversation happens in our house, and my flatmate Dean is the host of The Kitchen Talk Show. He sits by the microwave, in the soft chair on 4 out of 5 wheels. I never sit in that chair, because of its missing wheel, but somehow Dean doesn't teeter.

At the other end of the microwave table, either 'L' or Robert sits in the another chair, which has all its wheels. It's my chair, on loan to the kitchen since a year ago, after the wheel broke on that first chair and Robert went tumbling down.

There's a third chair across the kitchen, between the two refrigerators. It's hard metal and nobody likes it. It's only used when the other two chairs are occupied, which seems like all the time when it's roasting in our rooms, like today. Like it has been for weeks.

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From about 10AM until 8PM, nobody's never in the kitchen. Most often it's Dean, my very talkative flatmate who has nothing to say and never stops saying it. I open my door and he's there — the man with the missing shut-up switch, in the chair with the missing wheel.

If he's alone, he'll immediately start talking at me, and I'll either ignore him or grunt a few words. He's one of life's great displeasures, but you grow accustomed to him, like ants at a picnic or bums downtown.

If Dean's not alone, if Robert or 'L' is in the chair at the other end of that table, a conversation will be underway, but whatever the topic they'll drop it and say hello to me, as I walk toward the bathroom for a pee or a shower. "It's Doug!" and "Nice to see you," and "Come out and join us." Very welcoming, but still...

I didn't come out for a conversation. I smile and say hi and then I'm in the bathroom.

It's more of a problem when my destination is the kitchen, to make a sandwich. They're right there with me, so it's rude if I don't have something to say.

But what am I supposed to say? Invariably they're talking about Dean's cooking, or the weather ("Sure is hot"), or about baseball, football, or hockey. I know the names of the local teams and want them to win, so I can lightly participate in those conversations, while spreading mayonnaise.

But I don't like it.

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Yesterday, I came out of the green room and onto the set of Dean's talk show, and 'L' was the guest. When I was introduced ("It's Doug!"), I said howdy and even smiled, and then stepped into the bathroom for a thorough evacuation of my bowels.

By the time I'd flushed and come out, Robert had joined the panel, sitting in the hard-metal chair, waiting for his chance at the bathroom that was thick with my fumes.

The three of them were talking about baseball, and as Robert rose and walked past me toward my stink, he asked what I thought of a new pitcher the team had brought up from the minors. He said the player's name, and I said flatly, "I don't know who that is," and he chuckled and closed the bathroom door.

That was the cue for 'L' to start telling Dean and I all about the new pitcher, reciting his minor league stats, and sweet jeebers, I do not care.

If it was Dean telling me the guy's Double-A earned-run average, I would've walked into my room and closed the door. It was 'L', though, and I don't hate 'L', so I politely took my place on the hard-metal chair and listened for a couple of minutes. Now I'm an expert on right-handed pitcher Prelander Berroa, but I still don't care.

Finally I fake-smiled and said thanks, gotta go, and added, "You guys should try the living room some time."

That's my usual tagline as I'm leaving the talk show. One room thataway, there's a couch and two plush chairs. "On a couch, I might sit and talk a few more minutes," I said, and meant it.

I'm not much for talking, but I can be cordial to Dean, with effort, and there've been a few effort-free conversations with Robert, and I might like getting to know 'L' a little better (like, it starts with 'L' but what's your name again?).

Wouldn't mind a conversation, but it has to be an option, not a requirement. When I open my door and they're there in the kitchen, conversation is required, and I hate that.

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Haven't explained the above to Robert or 'L', because they'd misunderstand, think I'm insulting them. That's what happens, almost invariably, when I try explaining to people what it's like being an introvert.

How talking drains my energy.

How a few minutes of talking is OK, but too many minutes is a panic.

How I abhor talking about nothing.

Many, many times, I have tried explaining it to people, but explaining it involves talking, so it never works. The only people who've understood what I meant were other introverts, and they, of course, understood it without needing the explanation.

If I tried explaining it to Robert and 'L', which I won't, I'd say:

I'm an introvert. Look it up, and then look at the layout of this house we share.

I cannot leave my room without walking through the kitchen, and when it's hot out, people are always talking in the kitchen, and everyone says "Hi Doug!" when I open my door, and you expect me to converse, but I'm an introvert. I suck at sudden conversations.

If you would please talk in the living room instead of the kitchen, you'd be fifteen steps further from my door. None of the chairs would teeter. And best of all, I wouldn't be stepping into the middle of your conversation every time I twist the doorknob. 

Give me that much breathing space, and I might join your conversations, sometimes.

♦ ♦ ♦

But I'm not going to say any of that to my flatmates. I've explained it 50 times to 20 people in my stupid life, and all it's ever gotten me is a little more disliked by whoever I've explained it to.

That's life as an introvert. I close the door and eat my sandwiches, and sometimes I talk to myself.



  1. Captain HampocketsJuly 20, 2023 at 12:51 PM

    The more I read of your roommates and your reactions, the more I appreciate you letting me stay with you in 'sconsin. I hope I was less of a toolbag.

    1. Well, as I recall you sometimes sat in your room for a day and a half and didn't say squat except maybe, "D'ya want some of the chicken I'm cooking?"

      You were the *perfect* houseguest.

    2. If you're making it, yes. Anyone else, or especially if I'm making it, no.

    3. Bullshit. I offered dozens of cups, you never said yes.

    4. I said yes once, and you handed me a marvelous cup of tea. I am not a tea guy, and until that moment, I'd been unaware that tea *could* be marvelous, but I said yes once.

    5. Peace is the best path ordinarily, but does the talk show need to be yelled at? Esp for an introvert, that would get real old real fast.

    6. It might be different if I could hear them in my room, but with all the fans going I can't.

      No, I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. Can't explain why I hate walking onto a talk show without explaining what it's like to be an introvert. And that conversation never does anything except convince people I'm weirder than they already thought.


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