In general, strangers don’t talk to each other. Few ever strike up a random conversation with me. It almost never happens, so I am never sure how they react when I start one with them. It’s funny, because in my life, I have trouble starting conversations with people. I am seldom the ice breaker at a party. I’m much happier when you start the conversation, and then we can proceed. I’m afraid of intruding or interrupting or otherwise being a bother.
However, I can oddly start conversations with total strangers in some situations. I’ll frequently make opening statements in elevators, or bus stops or waiting rooms when there is a silence between two or more strangers. Most frequently I’ll open with a joke. I wonder if this spontaneous conversation is a source of smiles, or is it scary? I don’t seem to care as much when it’s a stranger than when it’s somebody I know or care about.
It’s usually casual. I just make a punchline of the situation and get a smile or a laugh. I break the silence of our shared experience.
This happened today at the all-you-can eat buffet. I was standing in line for some serving, with a full plate of various meat in front of me. To this, I added one single broccoli leaf. It struck me as a little funny, and so I leaned towards the stranger next to me, and commented; mother would be proud, as I pointed to the lone vegetable on my plate.
It wasn’t a great joke, and although a friend who knew me may have smiled or chuckled, the stranger offered no reaction at all. He must have thought it odd. Why was I talking to him? He didn’t know me. He didn’t know my mother. I continued; I can’t have desert until I eat my veggies. Still no reaction. I was clearly an unwelcome irritation.
I often try. Even if I don’t bring a smile instantly, it may generate a story for him when he reaches his table and discusses how an odd fellow tried to strike up a conversation at the food buffet. I know I got a story out of it.
This is it.
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