Monday, May 24, 2010

Small Talk

One thing that drives me nuts is small talk. Yes, we all have to do it and I actually have to do quite a bit of it for my job but that doesn't make it any the more enjoyable.

Case in point. We recently went to a social function where we knew only 2 other people. We met a (seemingly) nice guy and were chatting with him for quite awhile. People were grilling and I've learned from long experience to always bring my own veggie burgers.

Anyway, we had been talking to this guy and I had gotten the sense that he was quite a bit of a wannabe macho guy (I think it had to do with him being all of about 5 feet tall) and as I got my veggie burger he looks at it and says, "What's wrong with good ol' American beef?" First of all, it was rude as I never comment on what other people eat (except for my husband when I tell him to eat more veggies, but my husband eats meat for crissakes). It's nobody else's business what I eat or don't eat.

If someone has a dietary restriction due to religion (which is concerned with morality as is my decision not to eat meat) no one says anything about that. I've never heard of anyone cornering a Jew or Muslim (or a Catholic on Fridays) and demand to know why they don't eat certain food items.

Out of a BBQ of 10-12 people, 3 were vegetarians so I'm not even so much in the minority anymore.

I've learned to shrug it off over the years and most people forget that I don't eat meat. While I fully support animal rights and have worked on political campaigns, I dislike the "shout in your face" tactics and morally superior attitude some vegetarians/vegans have.

But I digress. It was just something about this guy's sneering tone that got to me. Not to mention, he had just been chatting with me and the hubs for 15 minutes or so.

I just looked at him and in my coldest voice said, "Really? Are you trying to start an argument with me?"

That shut him up and sent him on his way.

One down.

Another lady came over to chat with us. Did I mention this was a group of people who all know each other through scuba diving (which Leo and I don't do) so our topics of convo were a little limited from the start.

Running out of topics, I asked her what she did. She got all squirrelly and said she worked in IT but wanted to find a new field. That was it. She didn't ask what we did. She just kind of sat there. I thought the rules of conversation were kind of tit-for-tat.

Asking about someone's work isn't an out of bounds question (I think) and I figure if you don't want to talk about your work, you can just answer vaguely (which that lady did) and then steer the convo to what the other people do.

Strike 2.

Leo had gone off to chat with some older guy and as I walked over. Leo introduced me and before the other guy said his name or shook my hand, he said really loud, "Are you in the military?"

Put out, I just gave him a strange look and said, "No. Are you?" What kind of question is that? Especially when you shout it at someone. Although maybe he was deaf, who knows.

I just hate it when people go out of order. I don't mind if he asks if I'm in the military but at least tell me your name first and shake my freaking hand!

It's like when I was a waitress.

There's a certain order to the whole process. I come up to the table, say hi and take your drink order. I come back with the drinks and I take your food order.

It drove my nuts when people went out of order.

The one table that absolutely sticks in my mind for this was when I was working at Bennigan's (yes, Bennigan's) in Philly.

I came up, asked what they wanted to drink and the guy starts asking me about what kinds of soup we have.

Ok, I can roll with the punches as well as anyone but this was a slammed Friday night and I was in the weeds.

I told him. He hems and haws. I ask him again what he would like to drink. He doesn't answer. I ask him again and he orders soup.

He'll order a drink later.

While this might not sound like much, the life of a server depends on a reliable system. If you get one step out of this system your whole world can crash and burn in a second.

And this guy was seriously messing up my system.

Back to the BBQ.

We did meet a few nice people though so that redeemed it. And this night was hardly unique. I use it as an example because it happened recently.

I mean, I'm not a small talk Nazi or anything, but c,mon there are some rules that have to be followed.


  1. :) my dear,flexibility ,which is a must in social life and also when working with public,is not your strongest point :)) Why don't you just enjoy living ?

  2. Hi Rosabell. Thanks for the comment. I'm actually pretty flexible but sometimes you just gotta vent =)

  3. Hahaha! I love this post. What is funny is that I wonder how much of this can be contributed myself also having been a waitress (8 years!). You kind of get OCD about certain social nuances in establishing an "order" to things. I was pretty damn good at that job and really enjoyed it, but establishing order was also something I got to do being a biologist and now being a writer. I don't think any of this means you are socially inflexible at all, I think it just means that unless you are in a certain mood or in a work environment, you don't have the patience for small talk. Nothing wrong with that :)

  4. Hey Becca-

    I agree! I don't even mind small talk, it's just some people do it so weirdly, like shouting out, "Are you in the military?" before even saying hello, lol.

  5. 如果成為一支火柴,也要點亮一個短暫的宇宙;如果是一隻烏鴉,也要叫疼閉塞的耳膜。.............................................

  6. Hi Kristin, I got a kick out of reading this post. I share your dislike of small talk, which is why I don't really like to go to parties at which I'm not likely to ever see the people again. I wish I could be more like our friend, Patrick, who gets right into deep conversations with people. He is never bored at parties :-) It does seem sometimes that etiquette is dead... You'd think that people would just live and let live about what we're eating or not eating, and you'd also think that people would ask you questions after you'd been curious about them. Oh, well... Suffice it to say that I don't have the answers, but you are not alone! Debbie

  7. Hey Debbie! Your comment sums up the whole blog entirely! Thanks for the comment =)
    See you the 19th if not before!!

  8. I read this post a few days ago but was too rushed to comment. Anyway, love it! I totally sympathise! I am horrible, horroble, horrible at making intelligent small talk. I mean, like really uncomfortably awkward. *sigh* I guess we all have our talents.

  9. When I was 14 my mother told me 'it is about time you learn how to talk to people at parties. Next time we have guests make a plan and start chit-chatting with each of them".She was right. In about half a year the 'awkward" feeling was gone and the small talk was easy:) I remember how my first small-talk-comment was to a 50 years old lady who had auburn curly hair and how I told her " What a wonderful hair colour you have and how nice it matches your blouse". I was thinking it was a stupid thing to do and say but she was delighted . Of course, looking back it makes me mefiant about people telling me now nice things when I meet them socially... Should I believe them ? 90% no, they are just meant to be polite or to fill "gaps" in conversation.