10 February 2011

on small talk

"Aren't you going to make a comment about the weather?"

Darci at the front desk of my gym asked me that this morning at 5:30 as I stumbled in, fleece stocking cap pulled down over my eyebrows, scarf wrapped up to my nose.

We'd already gone through the normal front desk pleasantries:
"Good morning, Kamiah! How are you?"

"Really great, thanks! How are you?"

"Pretty good, too!"

This was all said on my part through the muffle of the scarf as my lungs readjusted to breathing heated air, not 21 below air.

I don't mind cold, and I don't mind small talk. I love the regularity of my daily conversation with Darci or Michael or whoever is working the front desk at the gym.

There are some things you can count on, and one of them is small talk. It will breeze you through many a situation, and I know that it's shallow and that even when you aren't fine, you say that you are when someone you don't know well asks, "How are you?" and then you have the moment of panic about lying.

I like to think of small talk as little social grace notes that get us through the day. Through the check out line, through the Starbucks ordering process, through the bank transaction process.

Those notes flit you along through the day until you get to the bigger conversations, the more serious conversations, the conversations with people who really know you.

To me, small talk is not a sign that we want to keep others at arm's length—by using the weather to keep ourselves from talking about anything more serious.

No, to me, small talk is a sign that we want to connect with others. We want to recognize that we're in this shared space or going through this shared experience, but sometimes all you have to say is, "It's cold, isn't it?!?!"

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