Friday, April 22, 2011

How Conversation Works

...or, what you learn by talking to people.

I'm a talker. I don't apologize for that, I'm just saying. I like to talk to people who will listen with interest and will talk back, and I like to talk to strangers. My friend Joan is the same, and we have theorized that people like us give off a certain vibe so that strangers will come up to us out of the blue and just start talking. That does seem to be the case.

When I was visiting No. 1 in Berkeley last month, a cabinet maker stopped by to discuss the options for renovating the kitchen. Before he left, I learned all sorts of things about him—he had a 12-year-old daughter who was turning his hair gray, his wife quit a job she hated and helped him form his eco-renovation business, his mother moved to Idaho and joined what he considers a fundamentalist church, and he had trouble talking to her after that. No. 1 stood by and wished we'd shut up, I think. Later, she blamed me for the man's talkativeness and suggested I intentionally encouraged it. Well, of course I did. I believe people are supposed to talk to each other, and not just about counter tops. And when a stranger tells you things, they are usually the things that are foremost on their minds, the things they think about when they aren't thinking about their jobs. And they tell you the things they need to talk about.

If you talk to people, you learn about them, and if you learn about them, you come a little closer to connecting to your fellow man. That, I think is important.

I had a similar experience this morning. Here's how it happened. We're having shutters installed in some windows, and Husband came upstairs while I was getting ready for the day to tell me Tiger had puked on the floor in the room where the men were working. I grabbed a few paper towels and cleaned up the mess, and I told the guy with the drill to let me know if he saw any more puke. For Tiger, puking is like sneezing—he never just heaves once. Well, that's all it took, and the otherwise quite guy launched into conversation.

In just a few minutes, I learned he was some kind of medical trainer, he trains EMTs or something like that, so vomit of any sort doesn't bother him a bit. He told me he had offered to clean up the vomit, but Husband declined. The guy tells his trainees that some people can handle vomit, and some can't, and if they can't, and their charge vomits, they should just join in as necessary, get over it, and move on. And if any of the other trainees tease the poor soul with a vomit reflex, then they'll be in big trouble. Interesting, don't you think? The carpenter is also a medical trainer.

But it didn't stop there. I also learned that people with that oh-my-gosh-I'm-going-to-hurl reflex react differently to different situations. The guy used his mother as an example—she never had trouble changing the diapers of her children, but she couldn't stomach changing the diapers of her grandchildren. The smell and the nature of the mess was just too much for her reflexes to handle. The guy's punchline—I tell her I guess my shit doesn't stink.

So, that's how conversation works. I like how it works. I'm a talker.


dive said...

Robyn, that's wonderful.
You SO need your own chat show!

savannah said...

what a great story, sugarpie! xoxoox (and yes, i agree with dive!)

Shan said...

I agree with Dive. I love how you are always up for a visit. You have good listening skills Robyn. ;) I find the chatting back difficult myself. Sometimes I want only to listen and fade in and out of attention (sadly). Oh, AND I'm not myself with strangers so that's tricky.

Scout said...

Dive, a chat show, eh? Interesting idea.

Savannah, turns out everybody has a story to tell. They're just waiting for someone to make eye contact long enough for them to tell it.

Shan, welcome back to the neighborhood. Does this mean you're writing, too? I'll go check.

dive said...

I'm sure Small Town would love its own chat show, Robyn. You could do it as a YouTube link in your newspaper.
Boy howdy, would THAT stir your dumb redneck commenters into a frenzy!

Oh, and never try the eye contact thing in England; it freaks us out. Hee hee.