Lord save me from The Mom’s infernal chatting to strangers. It’s really over the top sometimes and it drives me crazy. I don’t see why we cannot go out and just have a nice, quiet afternoon, without drawing all of the attention to ourselves. I don’t want to be the centre of attention, let alone have to make small talk with complete strangers. That is literally my idea of the Seventh Circle of Hell.
This is why I always make sure to book my train journey in the Quiet Carriage, why I always put headphones on when flying, and why I refuse to make eye contact with people. Thankfully these days like as not people are usually doing the exact same thing. Which is nice.
I enjoy talking to my friends, and having interesting conversations about interesting things but I loathe small talk. It drives me (and L’il Sis) up a wall and down the other side when The Mom steadfastly refuses to accept that we are not interested in this sort of thing and that we are rather more introverted than that. She sees this as a personal failing of hers, and in our characters.
To her, talking to people, to random strangers is a way of life, it’s a way of being friendly, of interacting, of being part of the world, or engaging one might say. Which I suppose is fine as long as I don’t have to be involved in it. I very frequently don’t want to engage with people, I mostly want to observe, usually from a distance, and almost always quietly and to myself.
This is generally how I interact with the world and I dare say it’s not done me much harm.
I’ve tried to explain this to The Mom but she doesn’t seem to understand how exahusting it can be. She knows I can do it, and knows L’il Sis can do it too, because we have to at work. You cannot be employed in this day and age and not be a Team Player. And this is perhaps where The Mom struggles. Because she freaking loves nothing more than walking up to random strangers and striking up a conversation.
When we were en route to Bath, we were sitting at a table (UK-residents and those who have been on trains in the UK will understand what this means, for everyone else, imagine this: There are usually four tables on each carriage of a train in the UK, which means there are two chairs facing each other with a table in between. It’s nice if you’re travelling in a group.). I never sit at the table when I’m on my own. Because it might mean I will have to talk to someone and that means engaging in an exhausting and potentially horribly boring conversation and not being able to get out of it without being rude, and frankly the whole thing spirals out of control from there.
But The Mom, upon learning of the table seats, was of course, thrilled. A way to connect with your fellow passengaers and have a chat! Wonderful! I know I seem like a Grumpy Gus, but seriously, you be a lone woman on a train with a bunch of randoms and see what kind of conversations you get dragged into.
So this nice kid sits down next to us. I know he’s nice because he asks very politely if he might sit in the empty seat. He has heard our accents (because we have been talking at North American volumes) and he strikes up a conversation. The Mom loves it. I don’t mind because he doesn’t seem drunk, obnoxious, crazy, or all three, and so fine. It’s that sort of very slow conversation that’s more like speaking in text messages – there’s a bit of wait for the message to be delivered, read, typed, and then sent. Perfect speed for me. The Mom loves it and I can just about cope. Had that been the only instance of such things, I probably wouldn’t have died.
Left to her own devices, I swear she would’ve chatted up the entire country. I do sometimes wonder how it is that we are related.