May The Forced Small Talk Be With You
While doing some light shopping at Cabela’s the other night, I met a girl. She worked there. She was cute. She was witty. She was a red-head. Her name was Cassie.
I remember walking towards the register with a few items in hand and thinking, “Wow. She’s really cute. Perhaps I should ask her out.”
As she began to ring up the few items I had laid on the counter, I initiated conversation. She volleyed the verbal ball back to my side of the court. Following up with a humorous quip, she giggled and asked me a question. My response must have been intriguing because, as she finished bagging my items, she leaned forward to listen more intently.
Our conversation continued for what I imagine was perhaps five minutes (at least).
Things were going really well.
I’d be a fool not to ask if I could call her sometime before going on my way.
My gaze fixed on her eyes.
Her gaze fixed on mine.
As my palms became slightly damp from nervous sweat, I casually slipped them into the pockets of my jeans.
I took a breath and opened my mouth ready to speak the words….
[Insert annoyingly loud music here]
I awoke to the sound of my alarm.
Have you ever had a dream that, for some unexplainable reason, stuck with you the entire day?
I had one of them just the other week.
The dream Matt made it look so friggin’ easy. How does he do it?
I come across the occasional “Cute Girl at the Register” from time to time. In fact, I encountered one recently at Half Price Books. Did I strike up a conversation? No. Did I want to? Maybe.
As my buddy Derek and I walked to my car, I commented on the cute register girl.
“I saw her,” Derek replied. “You should’ve asked for her number. I didn’t see a ring.”
For me, there had hardly been enough time to be able to make an appropriate assessment on whether or not a) she was single, or b) she’d be someone I would want to ask out.
The solution. Small talk. (Though I thoroughly despise “forced conversations.”)
There have been moments my brain has been able to produce on-the-spot dialogue while at the check-out counter. It was just, at that particular moment, nothing really formed. Had some clever conversational anecdote sprung to mind, how long would there have been before the next customer came along? One minute? Ten minutes? In either case, would that be enough time to learn what I hoped to learn about her?
None of it feels genuine. For some strange reason, I have had this perception that a forced conversation retains a “falsehood” that will linger over my head like a storm cloud in Seattle.
But these are the types of social encounters I’m led to believe will guide me towards finding the future “Mrs. Me.” At any given moment, I can bump into the person I’m fated to fall in love with. It could be anyone.
In Ladder 49, Joaquin Phoenix first meets Jacinda Barrett in the produce aisle discussing, I believe, ketchup. Or in, one of my guilty pleasure flicks, Serendipity, John Cusack meets Kate Beckinsale over a pair of gloves at Bloomingdale’s.
You just never know.
Which is why these events have mustered the internal need to issue a challenge… on myself.
Earlier this month, my job flew me to Salem, Oregon, for two weeks, to train a few new hires. I was in a completely unknown city where the only people I know are some of my fellow co-workers.
I officially declared that while on this work trip I would work on my ability to create small talk.
How did it pan out? I think I’ve learned that I don’t need to force anything if I just pay attention to the details.
Due to complications with the airline, I was comped some food vouchers at the airport during a six-hour layover. Before my connecting flight boarded, I introduced myself to a group of girls looking for a place to eat and gave them my remaining voucher.
At dinner the night we arrived into town, our waitress said I looked cute in my drivers license photo. Playful banter continued, here and there, until we left.
I quickly got on a first name basis with the night concierge at the hotel. By the end of the trip, we had become friends, and I made sure to get her number before I checked out.
Those instances came easy. In those three instances, I was like the Matt in my dream.
The difference between them and the girl at Half Price Books? I stopped thinking. I was aware. I followed my gut and went with what felt natural.
You know what?
I’ve treated small talk as the enemy for too long. It has done nothing to wrong me.
Perhaps, once back in Kansas City, I’ll make a trip to Half Price Books. You are obviously invited.