The onus of conversation

I can become quite the Chatty Charlie after I’ve had a couple of beers, but when I land in a situation where I am required to make conversation, expected to find common ground, the only thing I share with my fellow conversationalists is the desire to get the hell out of there.

Not surprisingly, my favorite table (my regular table) at Sam’s is someone else’s favorite as well. As the quiet afternoon passes over, giving way to evening and the after-work crowd, My choice little spot is looked upon jealously by the fixtures I have displaced. Successful integration with the fixtures, a key step in accelerated regularization, is the subject of a different post. This post is about finding yourself at a table with some other guy you don’t know. He wants to leave, you want him to go, but he doesn’t.

He doesn’t want to offend you.

He knows you would rather he leave. Everyone knows that everyone will be happier if anyone could give up on the pretense of a connection and head your separate ways. Yet no one can act on what everyone knows.

Finally, some outside influence allows the escape. “I’m just going to go over and say hello to my buddy,” he says, and he bolts for the far side of the bar. Thank God.

Yet one day I went into a bar for the first time (at least the first time for that version of the bar), and I sat down next to a guy I’d never met before and we hit it off marvelously. We hardly said a damn thing to each other. We both talked to Melissa, the bartender, and exchanged a few pleasantries, but mostly we hung out. Because neither of us felt any need for conversation, the discomfort was gone. We were just a couple of buds having some beer. People who have been friends for 50 years don’t talk so much. Why wait so long?

2 thoughts on “The onus of conversation

  1. This business about needing to talk just to fill silence seems to be mostly gender-related, but not totally. I notice in particular that women don’t like silence — they have to fill it with something. On several occasions, I have shared rides to the lake with other sailing club members, and I find that the women just simply HAVE to keep talking.

    Men, on the other hand, are generally more content (or at least less dissatisfied) with silence. We can listen to what’s on the radio or the CD player, or to our own thoughts, and it’s not a problem. No point in wasting energy saying anything if there’s not anything to say. (Is it any surprise that my favorite carpool companion has a new job as a long-haul trucker?)

    There are however, exceptions — you may note, for instance, that I like silence better than meaningless verbiage even though I am female. And my husband often seems to like to talk just for the sake of talking, even when there’s no meaning to convey.

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