It’s funny isn’t it, the interactions we can have with people? The many different possibilities, variables and outcomes that can come of two individuals with free will, free thought, free expression, freedom to react and the sometimes unavoidable misunderstandings. But the fact that people are able to converse with one another is a wonderful thing. The joy of meeting someone and finding out that they have similar interests to you. Then you build rapport, exchange phone numbers, become friends on facebook, find out where they live, sit outside their house sometimes, get asked to move on by the police, see them in court, get issued a restraining order. Then the circle is complete and you are back where you started. Strangers once more.
What I’m saying is, interaction and the sharing of ideas, the coming together of minds is a beautiful thing.
One day, in the very near past, I was sitting eating a sandwich in the canteen at work when a colleague came over to talk to me. “Alright son?” he says to me. He is not old enough to be my father. It’s a common Brummie expression. I respond with the courteous, “Hello.”
He then sits down in front of me and looks at me with that familiar expression of his. You see, he has a constant expression like he is waiting for me to say something. As if I’m going to tell him something. He can’t help looking that way, it’s just his face, but I then feel compelled to fill the space of silence between us. I have to because he’s waiting for me to tell him something.
“How’s it going?” I ask.
“Alright son,” he says.
Then once again, there is a gaping void of nothing between us. The silence is deafening. I have nothing to say to this man but he is still looking at me like he is waiting for me to tell him a story. I have no story. I have nothing I want to say. I just want to eat my f*cking sandwich in peace.
Well I can’t be rude. So, under pressure I decide to be the one who fills that void with some small talk.
“How’s your day going?”
“Alright,” he replies.
Very small talk. Again, we have a long pause. I start chewing on my crust.
A conversation is usually a two-way thing. Why would this man sit there, staring at me expectantly but not engage me in any conversation?
Now I’m really under pressure. I need to draw upon my skills of small talk genius. I shall engage with this man on an intellectual plane of stimulating dialogue. I shall expand his mind. I shall open up this very closed book, probably okay for light reading, but nonetheless, I will learn about this man. We shall together take each other’s minds on a journey to ponder the greatest questions of civilisation, human natures moral boundaries, the possibilities and incomprehensible echelons of the universe, religion, spirituality, life and the meaning of it all. Damn it, I’ve only got 13 minutes of my lunch left and half a cucumber sandwich but f*ck it! I’m going for it!
“So you’ve had a good morning then yeah?”
That was it. I was all out.
He shrugs. I take another bite of my cucumber sandwich taking particular attention to the crunchy yet succulent texture of the slice of cucumber, just to take my mind off the silence between my colleague and I as he still sits there waiting for something from me.
He soon learns that I have nothing for him. After a minute, a very long minute, he tells me he’ll see me later and off he goes.
That cucumber was delicious! I wish I’d told him.