In search of good conversation
Let it be known: I really like hearty conversation. Unfortunately, for some reason it is very hard to find in this world.
So, today on the way home from work on the train, I was fortunate enough to have a nice, friendly, and surprisingly satisfying conversation. Here’s what happened:
I was sitting behind a girl that I thought was pretty, but she was reading a book. Past experience trying to talk with people, especially pretty girls, reading things on the train has made me a little wary of trying to strike up conversation, as their motivation for reading is usually some combination of a) they are really digging their book and b) they don’t want to talk to you or anyone else (although it might be just you exclusively)*. Anyway, I kept trying to muster up the courage and boldness to talk with her, but in a way that wasn’t too bothersome (somehow being pleasantly bold is, I feel, the great challenge of approaching strangers), and just couldn’t do it. She was reading a book about flowers and looked like she was really into it**.
So my eyes started to wander in search of something I could comment on to bring up some conversation, with the book-reading girl or someone else (it’s really helpful to have some sort of neutral object or happening to comment on to start up conversation). Across the aisle, I saw a woman in uniform with a Seattle Seahawks lunchbox – I was born in Seattle and grew up in Portland! This was the “in” I was waiting for!As soon as she turned in my direction to look at something, I asked if she was from the Pacific Northwest. It turned out she was and, because she was friendly, open, interested in talking, and we had interesting topics to discuss (east coast vs. west coast culture, her military experience, and her lunchbox), a very pleasant conversation ensued. In fact, the conversation just flowed, without any awkward pauses to speak of (an uncommon treat!). Soon enough, her stop came, and our conversation ended, on a rushed, albeit positive, note. I seriously doubt I’ll ever see her again, but I hope both she and I will have many more such pleasant encounters with people.
Afterwards, it left me wondering, with gratitude and curiosity rather than wistfulness and disappointment, why such seemingly chance but fulfilling interactions are so rare***? And why, when they do happen, are they so distinctly enjoyable? Perhaps they are a tender mercy shown to me by the Lord, who knows how much I love and appreciate being engaged with people and understands how deeply I experience the absence or deficiency of human contact and interaction. Any thoughts or related experiences, friends?
*One experience in particular sticks out in my mind – I saw a not-unattractive girl reading “Freakonomics” and I thought “Cool, that girl likes economics, she must be smart! And I’ve read that book, so I have an in!” Pleasantly but not without some boldness, I asked how she liked the book – she gave me a very brief, nondescript response, and as I hadn’t read the book in quite some time and she didn’t give me much to work with , I couldn’t come up with any sort of interesting comment to keep the interaction going. So it ended. Truthfully, I think she really wanted to read her book and really didn’t want to talk to me.
**Part of me wondered if her apparent absorption in her book was somewhat self-consciously affected because of the mysteriously handsome half-Asian guy eying her and her book from the seat behind. The egoist in me thinks that is precisely what it was 🙂
***unfortunately, they seem especially rare among the exceptionally pretty girls, which makes my chances of wooing and marrying an exceptionally pretty girl pretty slim (that, and many other reasons of course).