Whenever I have to fly somewhere, I always struggle with what is the proper amount of social interaction with the stranger who is jammed into the seat next to me. I don’t want to be rude and aloof and thus make the trip uncomfortable, but neither do I want to invite a running commentary that leaves me a captive victim for an interminable flight of hellish boredom.
Case in point, the woman who was sitting behind me on my most recent flight. She made the mistake of saying, “How are you doing?” to the woman next to her. For the next two hours, she was treated to a running commentary, occasionally peppered with her defeated uh huh’s and one brief shining respite when the flight attendants came through with the beverage cart and threw the single peanut into the aisle for all of us to fight over.
The rest of the time, all of us in earshot were subjected to the following:
- Every job she had since she was 17 years old.
- Every place she lived her entire life.
- Full details of when, how, and why her mother died in 2005.
- Every detail of her job as an architectural consultant.
- Even more detail about her current project.
- The fact that she decorates wedding cakes as a hobby.
- A photograph of every single wedding cake she has ever decorated, with details about how the flavors and colors were chosen, and how each cake was constructed. Oh, and did I mention she had done the grooms cakes, too?
- The entire plot of the current book she was reading.
- Details of a political scandal in her town in which someone was murdered, everyone knew who did it, and yet no one would ever be brought to justice.
- Her nephew’s rise to stardom in the soccer championships.
If I had been caught in a bear trap next to this woman, I’d have gladly chewed off my own arm just to get away. Since I was sitting a row ahead of her, fortunately I didn’t have to pretend to be interested. I could attempt to read my book and block out her babble. But that woman next to her was trapped. I felt very sorry for her. She was clearly suffering. Her uh-huh’s became more feeble as the flight droned on.
The thing is, boring people have no idea how boring they are. If they did, they’d stop. Obviously. But that makes me wonder if I bore people. There are a few telltale signs, of course.
- If you are doing all the talking, odds are the other person does not want to participate.
- If you come away from the conversation having learned nothing new yourself, it was clearly not a two way street in terms of communication.
- If you are pelting a total stranger with intimate details, you might want to dial it back.
- If people you know see you coming and cross the street to avoid you, that might be a red flag.
If you really feel like telling the world every intimate detail about yourself, here’s a concept: start a blog. Then you can say whatever you want, and all your friends and family can pretend to read it without ever really reading it. Win/win.
[Image credit: icareifyoulisten.com]