02 April 2008

The Culture of Politeness: In Tivoli Giant.

I should start off by writing that I'm not very good at small talk. I usually depend on a friend to start conversations when we are out in public, say in a bar, or in a bookstore, or anywhere really. I'm afraid that I come off as disingenuous or bored or annoyed.

A former roommate of mine would say that I could give people a look that implied that they bored me.

"Oh look, it's MA," she would utter, "what's she thinking? Ah. Yes. 'You bore me'."

Yes, sometimes I do find people boring or boorish or uninteresting, but most of the time, I just don't know what to say.

"Why yes, the sky is awfully BLUE today."

"Indeed, steroids are ruining baseball as we know it."

Well, today, I managed to engage in quite a bit of small talk, thankyouverymuch, all because a woman in an electric wheel chair cut in front of me in line at the Tivoli Giant in my beautiful Columbia Heights.

The Tivoli Giant and I have a very tenuous relationship. I disapprove of its prices for things that one can get a Whole Foods for less, I'm not so pleased with the lines, I really don't like running into my upstairs neighbors there, and although I've done it a few times, I'm still a little afraid to buy fish at the seafood counter.

But damn it if that Giant isn't convenient, and many times filled with handsome men (even if more than a few times they would totally never be interested in me as they are shopping together for their perfect condo just above the metro, but I digress).

Today, the lines were so long that they stretched into the aisles. And rather than take up the space separating the magazine rack/start of the checkout conveyor belt from the start of the grocery aisles, people were patiently standing in aisles so that shoppers could walk across the front of the store with ease.

Right as I was on the precipice of getting to the elusive actual check out line, a older woman in an electronic wheelchair buzzed right in front of me into my spot in line! I should add that I had a killer headache and part of the reason why I went to the Giant in the first place was to pick up some Advil.

But I didn't say a word because she was older and in a wheelchair. What can you do in this situation?

"Excuse me, Madam, you're going to have to wheel yourself to the back of the line to the far end of the laundry detergent as everyone else has done."

I wasn't going to be THAT person.

So I turned to look at the supercool guy standing behind me (who was buying two bottles of wine and cookies. Score!) and smiled my most sheepish grin and slightly shrugged my shoulders.

By the time he and I got to the place in line where we could actually watch the groceries sail down the conveyor belt, we had to engage in some kind of small talk.

But this time, my dearest readers, I wasn't as lame as I could have been because we could talk about one of my favorite subjects, Pepperidge Farm Cookies!

Supercool guy: "Long line, eh?"

Me: "Long day! But at least you have cookies and wine, but mostly cookies!"

ScG: "Yeah. I couldn't help myself. And I had to eat two. Oh well!"

Me: "I don't blame you. At all."

Wheelchair lady paid for her stuff and I paid for my stuff and as I turned to go, I said, "Bye! Have a great evening and enjoy those cookies!"

Small talk! Who knew I had it in me?


Casey said...

You didn't even comment on the tenuous conflationary connection between confections and repressed tawdry emotion in Chaucer?

Dexter Colt said...

The sky appears blue due to Rayleigh scattering.

Hey, how you doin?

a little of this, a little of that... said...

I'm kind of in the same boat. Often there are too many possible wheels turning in the mind. Given a topic or something interesting to react to, I can usually discuss it if I want to. Starting small talk from scratch? Not a chance that it will be successful. Congrats on your success, though.

diderot said...

Voulez-vous obtenir nu, et faire de petits-talk? seems to work reasonably well as ice-breaker.

Pascal √Čbert said...

I've met spectacularly interesting people very much by accident and would have to admit that my most profound learning experiences were born of small talk.

I've always felt that there's no such thing as an insignificant meeting or exchange if either linger the following morning.

susan said...

Atta girl. I too am not so talented at the small talk. I keep waiting for the day when I will fulfill my genetic destiny and be able to effortlessly learn the entire life stories of my fellow shoppers while standing in line at some store or other (as my mother and grandmother manage to do with startling frequency).

cuff said...

Which PF cookies were they? Nantuckets? Chessmen? Ah, you should have been so forward as to ask for a bite of cookie.

Washington Cube said...

I agree with Cuff. I expect more reporting here. What was cookie man wearing? What type of cookie? What color wine? Chessmen? White. As for small talk, I talk to anyone about everything and anything, I'm afraid, and made my cashier at the Safeway laugh last night (see blog.) Sometimes I secretly think it's my natural bent to be bored and not want to speak to anyone. Other times I think it's genetically implanted in me via father to talk so freely. I become very frustrated with friends when I bring them stories from the front (see blog,) then ask about their day and they say, "Oh nothing happened today." Of COURSE something happened. Something is always happening. Even a headache riddled night at the Tivoli Giant.

Megarita said...

I can usually pull off small talk, but I've been vexed by some groups. "Hmmmm . . . childbirth nightmare stories. Got nothing."

And I totally would have told the wheelchair to push on. No cookies for me.