Confessions of a Social Pariah: The Stop and Chat
By Spliph, South Africa:
There is nothing as daunting as meeting someone you vaguely know and in the process being forced to start a conversation. These awkward encounters follow a universally agreed on process and go something like this:
B: Hey how are you?
A: I'm very well and how are you?
B: I'm good thanks….. wow it's been a while hey, how have you been?
A: I've been good just busy with this and that. You?
B: Same here..
It is at this time that the awkward aura of false familiarity creeps in.
I had a chat with my friends on this particular subject which came about when I announced that I had reached my friendship quota and have no interest in meeting new people. To say they became livid with dissatisfaction and scornful reproach is a gross understatement. But in that which I failed to justify through speech, I will merit in text. Have you noticed how awkward it is for adults to build new relationships – be it friendship or the likes?
Relationships need compatible lifestyles and the flexibility to give someone else your time. It is unlike when we were young and all you needed to make a new friend was the same colour t-shirt. Now you have to contest with professions, relationships, the past, other friends etc. It's too much admin, and I know I'm not the only one who enjoys the beauty of synergised human order.
Let me tell you a story about a guy I vaguely know who I met at the gym.
So there I am at the gym looking ridiculous in my bright red top and lime green shorts pumping some iron. After some sets I would walk to the mirror and glance at myself in the hopes to see some structural reform. I walked away disappointed every time.
Then the guy who was in line to use the machine decides to start a conversation. I had to abandon 2Pac's Hit Em Up and listen to him: after all I'm a very friendly guy. This was a relief too because a few more minutes of that song I would have built up the urge to go out bare chested and hurl obscenities at people.
After some 30 minutes of intense discussion about muscular nutrition I decided to head home, at which point he asked me what I do for a living. That is the worst question to ask someone by the way.
After politely excusing myself and ending the niceties with a fist bump, this guy offers to walk me home – never mind the fact that the route to where I live was mildly off-course from where he lives as it turns out; but which man offers to walk another man home after meeting them for the first time? After a very awkward 10 minute walk, we again exchange niceties and end the dialogue.
To tell you that the following morning I had a good day is a lie because I had an unannounced visitor. Now I had to summon all mental capacity to build a relationship when all I wanted to do was watch TV.
Fast forward some 2 years today. I am glad to announce that I have developed a system for unwelcomed visitors. This system involves locking the door at lightening speeds, turning the cell to silent and diving for the floor to eliminate being seen through the blinds. It works.
Starting conversations is a drag, it is much better when they are circumstantial and controlled. An easy example would be a fundraiser where we are all there for a “do good” objective. You can't force spontaneity with someone you just met.