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Saturday, 23 June 2012

Evidence that socialising more may just be a case of forgetting your umbrella


You know how you suddenly find you've had a conversation with a complete stranger?  Why does this happen?

1.  When you've forgotten something

I was walking along the road today when a lady walking ahead suddenly stopped, turned round, and headed back towards the other way, towards me.  As she was passing me, she stopped and said, 'Forgotten my umbrella!  Silly me!' and I stopped and said, 'Ha ha, I'm always doing that!' and she said, 'I know.  Isn't it annoying?  Then you have to go ALL the way back!' and I said, 'Yeah, SO irritating' and then we said 'bye' to each other like we'd met each other in 1845 and had been meeting for drinks on Fridays ever since, and I went on my way.  Why did she feel she had to tell me?  She had a perfect right to double back without deferring to me.  Why do we do this?

2.  When someone has been blocking you on the street

Later, in town, I was trying to walk down quite a narrow pavement.  But there were two people in front of me who were obviously on a 'let's-wander-through-town-and-look-in-every-shop-window' day trip.  I couldn't get past and it got to the point where I was contemplating skewering them both in the back with my big golf umbrella and making them into a kebab.  Instead, I did that thing where you try and dodge around to the left or right of them, but every time I did, they got back in my way, and so it was getting annoying.  Suddenly, they spotted me behind them, and stopped to let me past.  What did I say?  Did I say, 'About time!'?  No.  Did I say, 'Thank you?' and move on?   No.  I squeezed past them saying, 'Sorry, sorry, my apologies' and they said, 'That's okay' and I said, 'Off to see my Gran - in a hurry.  Sorry.' and they said, 'No problem' and I said, 'Thanks.  Have a good day.'  So, in two seconds, they had been transformed from potential kebab ingredients to lifelong friends to invite to weddings and funerals. How did that happen?

3. When you're at a bus stop

People at bus stops talk to each other, but only when the bus is late.  You wait in silence, or maybe listening to an ipod or texting someone, until 9.37 when your bus is due.  You don't say a word to anyone at all.  Then, at 9.37 and 45 seconds, with no bus, suddenly everyone starts hugging and kissing and saying, 'It's never normally late' and 'You're right, it's usually so reliable' and then someone else says, 'Ooh, I don't know, it's often late for me' and then you start swapping birth stories.  Then what happens? The bus arrives at just before 9.38 and you all get on and sit on completely different seats, ignoring one another for the rest of the journey.  Why?



9.37




9.37 and 45 seconds



4. When there's a community crisis

Sunday afternoon.  Everyone's behind their doors, having crumpets or scones and cups of tea.  Speak to the neighbours?  Are you KIDDING?  Then, without warning, out go the lights.  You switch them on and off again, then off and on again, then realise it's not just the lights, but the fridge has gone quiet, and the DVD player doesn't work either.  A power cut.  Suddenly, your doorbell rings.  It's Roger from number 30.  'Has your power gone off?'  'Yes, it has.'  'Mine, too.  What a pain?'  'Hey, we've got gas.  Want a cup of tea?'  'Well, don't mind if I do!'  So, in comes Roger, and twenty minutes later, the people from numbers 12, 35, 17 and 41, and you're getting out the chocolate biscuits left over from Christmas, and everyone's talking about their operations, food intolerances and sexual frustrations.  Then, the lights go on.  Five minutes later, you're back to your lonely consumption of crumpets and tea, you have a pile of washing up as high as a lucky junkie, and Maureen never finished her story about her ingrown toenail.  (Shame.)






25 comments:

  1. It often happens when you're in an elevator with someone in a tall building.

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    1. And someone starts off the conversation with, 'Anyone else about to soil themselves?'....

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  2. I quite often enjoy a conversation more if I don't know the person. People who stand behind me in line almost always say, Oh my goodness! Your dog must be shedding.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Ah, yes, the dog thing! That is, I hear, the best way of talking to complete strangers. I love your comment - it's completely acceptable to make that kind of comment about the dog, but if someone came up behind you and said, 'Hey, did you realise your dandruff is really BAD today?' it would be a different thing altogether!

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  3. The art of idle chit-chat is fast disappearing. The mobile phone generation don't know how to do it. They are too busy texting to even notice other people, which I find quite sad. I chat to strangers, at bus stops, in queues etc. I find it uplifting to smile with a stranger, and, with the elderly, sometimes I wonder if it's the only bit of conversation they will get that day.
    'Excuse me, please', works when people are blocking your way.

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    1. I find it really amusing sometimes to see a group of teenagers who look as though they're socialising but in fact are all texting someone else!

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  4. Small talk is great, and so much more tolerable than big talk. I have to admit that I always call a cheery greeting to those odd bods I encounter - particularly when out walking - who turn their heads or look to their feet, rather than offer an acknowledgement.

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  5. When I tried to rob my local bank yesterday I found I'd forgotten to bring my sawn-off shotgun. Well! You can imagine the embarrassed conversation I had with the cashier!

    And it didn't end there.

    I'm now having very long conversations with the police.

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    1. You should have a list of things to take with you when you're going to rob banks. I have one for when I'm going on holiday. I find it really useful.

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  6. I can identify with all of these and smiling at rude people who do not thank me for keeping my wet dog out of their way as we pass. I've been known to stand in the road to let gaggles of people pass.

    The bus stop one is very me & the umbrella !

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    1. Ah, passing a wet dog! Yes, a tricky one, especially when it shakes all the drips off JUST as you're alongside it. Still, I usually forgive dog and owner as I like dogs anyway. And dogs are often nicer than their owners (although I'm sure that's not the case with you, she adds hastily)

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  7. Sudden torrential downpours are quite good , too . One can revive that How Many People Can You Fit In A Phone Box stunt . The fun !!

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    1. That's almost worth praying for rain, that one.

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  8. I was once (for the first and only time) properly measured for a bra, and was told I was a 36D. A 36D? ME? With my rather small boobs? Five minutes later, I found myself rushing round John Lewis, telling total strangers: "Guess what! I'm a 36D!!!"

    I still have no idea what got into me.

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    1. That did make me laugh! I hate getting measured for bras, so I rarely ask. Also, there's always that chance (given Sod's Law) that the person measuring will be one of my 6th formers doing her Saturday job ....

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  9. I was in a supermarket the other day (of course, as you can't verify this, I could pretend it was Waitrose, or Sainsbury's (that's the one for people too poor to shop in Waitrose), though in reality it was Morrisons, so that's me pigeonholed then....)and a woman came up alongside me, smiling - then said 'Oh, no, you're not you, are you' I knew what she meant.....

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    1. I bet she went home and said, 'Something SO embarrassing happened today!'

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  10. It is about the common ground, isn't it? And the weather is the big one.

    I had a lovely chat with an elderly man in Starbucks (in May). He came to sit next to me on those high chairs, and apologised for the fact that his bag might be in my way. It wasn't. We talked about the last time it was hot like today, and we remarked on peoples's attire. I told him I like to people watch and he said he did too. So that's what we did.

    'Look at him all wrapped up in his jumper when it's so hot.'

    'I think they're a bit lost.'

    When I left, bless him, he thanked me for talking with him. It was a pleasure.

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    1. People watching is the best activity of all. And people watching with other people, even better.

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  11. I greeted a near neighbour I had never spoken to before saying "How are you?" He answered "I am having trouble with my penis." Determined that I had misunderstood him I pleaded, "Peonies?" He shook his head.
    Now whenever I see him on the horizon I pretend talk into my mobile for fear of an update.

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    1. I've been telling this story to everyone today!

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  12. Britain :-) I'm "almost" best buddies with 3 ladies I see on the train in the morning/evening for ten minutes :-)

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    1. Something really bizarre happened to me a couple of weeks back. I got a train from Leamington Spa to London, so a good couple of hours' journey. Next to me was one man. Opposite me was another. Both were reading their papers/working on laptops. They said not a word to each other all the way there. Then suddenly as we pulled into Marylebone, one said to the other, 'Well, John, what did you reckon to the footie last night?' and there they were, chatting away. How odd.

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