March 18, 2009
I sit down at the bar, next to a friend.
He says, “Hey, what’s been going on?”
I take off my jacket. He waits. I take a moment.
Then I say, “Tell me: why do people always have to have stuff going on?”
He doesn’t say anything, so I keep going.
“I mean, doesn’t dredging up the recent past take us out of the moment? Shouldn’t we be entrenched in the here and now instead of discussing whatever random boring thing happened to us this week?”
I continue. “Are we doomed to over think every little thing that’s happened to us in order to make conversation?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” he says. “I mean, if we’re going to talk about stuff, we are.”
“Well, I’m taking a stand. I’m not talking about my stuff anymore. Besides, I don’t want to think about my stuff every time I say hi to someone.”
“But your stuff is how people get to know you.”
“And that’s sad,” I say. “Do I have to be the sum of my stuff? Is that all I am to people? Am I a walking stuff machine, ready to spew at any moment?”
“That’s a fair assessment of most males.”
“I’m talking about stuff, not that kind of stuff. Er, I mean, I’m talking about: talking about stuff. Do I have to talk about stuff for people to get to know me? Am I just a laundry list of stuff that people can use to judge me as a person?”
“What’s a laundry list?” my friend asks.
“I have no idea. Grocery list?”
“You mean grocery list.”
“Yeah. See? I’m not even good at talking about stuff. And maybe that’s why I’m one of the few willing to take a stand against it.”
“Well, I can see your point, though. I mean, most of my stuff has nothing to do with who I am; it’s just a bunch of random stuff that happened to me. It’s not at all a measurement of my personality or potential.”
“So, what if other people talk about stuff?” my friend asks.
“That’s fine. Really. I’m totally okay with other people having stuff going on, and then talking about it. Just don’t force me to have stuff. It’s my personal choice not to.”
“Sure. Makes sense.”
“All I’m trying to do is avoid small talk for the sake of small talk, see.”
“What if there’s nothing to talk about?”
“You mean, like, what if people just run out of stuff to say, because they don’t have anything stupid to talk about?”
“Good,” I say. “Let them think for once, or enjoy each other’s silence. Or maybe they might actually pay attention to the lyrics of a song.”
“It could be boring. Life, I mean. Though, the song lyrics could also be boring.”
“So what? If life gets a little boring, that’s good. It means we’ve run out of stuff. We’re empty and ready to be filled. And if some people really can’t stand the silence, they can spend a few minutes thinking of something interesting to say instead of relying on their stuff.”
“It could work.”
“Let me ask you: if I just sat here in silence for a minute, would you storm out because I’m not being entertaining enough?”
“Nope. I’m too lazy. I’m happy here, next to my beer. Besides, it’s not like stuff’s important. Half the time I just make stuff up because the real stuff is incredibly boring.”
“Right. Don’t allow yourself to be measured by the uneventful day you’ve had!”
“Yeah. You’ve really got something there.”
“Yeah. I thought so, too.”
We sit. I order a bourbon. We sit some more.
“So,” he says, “that’s what’s been going on, huh?”
“Yep,” I say. “I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit.”
“Nah. I just made that stuff up. I got nothin’ today. What have you been up to?”