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Social Interaction

June 28, 2007

While I’m no longer working there, I do recall many of my thoughts & learnings from Caffeine, and sometimes feel like sharing additional wisdom.

For instance, now.

To start with, I’m sure the Internet is by now aware that I’m not necessarily a patient person.  Ok, downright impatient, possibly intolerant.  There are all sorts of personal faults and foibles that piss me off coming from customers, and I judge pretty heavily.  There is, however, a “But” to this discussion, and I’m getting there.  I promise.  Just bear with me for a few. 

A key one is people who talk slowly.  This drives me around the bend.  It always has.  If you talk slowly enough that I can guess what’s coming and fill in, you might as well speed up, or just stop halfway in when I react to what you were eventually going to getting around to say.  Please don’t give me the content and then make me listen through inane drivel as to why you like that particular beverage, or, worse, make me listen to the drivel before you get to the order.  Brevity being the soul of wit, give me lots of content with a minimum of actual talking.  The other major hassle from customers is people who cannot read body language…

Some customers come in, wanting to talk for ages about things that don’t matter or interest those unfortunates behind the counter and will go on for as long as they can get away with.  Regardless of the I’d-like-to-get-back-to-work cues, they plunge heedlessly onward through inanity and minutia, assuming we share their fascinations.  I restrain myself, and generally put up with these morons better than my female co-workers.  Generally, an extended conversation with one of these awkward people on my part is not building to an invitation to dinner, where my coworkers seemed to have this as an unfortunate consequence of following along one of these conversations.

But there was one sort of these awkward conversationalists that I felt so sorry for I was willing to pass by their numerous social and conversational faults, merely for the sake of politeness, and was even willing to put thought and continuance into the discussion.  These being the Lonely Diners.

I’m not entirely certain who coined the term, but I’m pretty sure this is how they’re referred to.   The folk for whom their brief interactions with service personnel such as myself and my co-workers is the full extent of their social life.  They have no real outlet for the interpersonal, pack instincts that drive almost every person on earth.  Desperate for the merest feeling of connection to another person, any person, they thrust awkward, stilted conversations on servers, counterpeople and shopclerks everywhere.  These are not the gregarious lonlies on the bus, striking up conversations with total strangers just for the sake of it – no, the lack that bold confedence, needing an excuse, an “in” in order to have that contact.  Ordering a coffee, a meal, buying a t-shirt becomes a 20-minute discussion, merely so they can talk to someone.

I can’t help it, I indulge them.  I know their motives, I know they’re harmless, and thus, I talk back.  Sure, one must be careful – can’t have them regarding you as a friend, or you’ll never get rid of them, but … it’s good for them, and they’re good business.

So next time someone throws an awkward, probably unwanted conversation your way, think before blowing them off.  It is possible they’re just so desperately starved for human attention that they talk to total strangers our of raw need.  …Or they have a colection of shiny needles, sturdy rope, and pointy knives that they’d like to introduce to you as soon as the drugs take hold.   So don’t go overboard with the pity conversations, neither.

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