You know when you bump into someone at work and you know them a bit but not enough to stop and have a conversation with them, but you kind of feel that you should, and you sort of stop then the other person stops then you have to have a conversation even though you have nothing interesting to say and consequently it’s really awkward?
That just happened.
I feel I have more awkward conversations than most people. When I tell people this they tell me I’m being ridiculous and I’m not awkward at conversations at all, which is very nice of them but misses the point – it may look like it’s going well to a casual fly on the wall or CCTV operator, but inside I’ll feel like I’m surrounded by a thousand electric eels in the middle of a busy roundabout. The problem with conversations is there’s so many things you can say. You can say something offensive, or stupid, or make a reference that even as you’re saying it you know the person won’t understand. Or you can agree with everything they say or ask them questions and nod and maintain really disturbing eyesight. Or what if you’re stuck with someone boring? What do you do then? It’s hard to steer a conversation to an exit mark when they’re railing on about the decline of the Guardian or the inherent contradictions of capitalism. Or twitter.
There’s a guy at my hometown suburban station who works at the cafe, and he’s good to talk to because
a) He’s always off his tits on expresso / coke
b) He always has something interesting, if frequently offensive to say
c) As you’re at a station waiting for a soon-to-arrive train, it’s easy to break off the conversation before something really bad happens
Last time I saw him was a few days ago, on my return to Islington from the suburbs. Then*…
“Oh, right, nice. I know Angel good. I lived near there once”
“Yeah, it’s nice…”
“… Lots of Turkish people. Too many Turkish people. All dealing the drugs…”
“Heroin. They’re all in heroin – so much heroin.”
“Yeah? I know Haringey is the centre of the heroin trade…”
“And they get all the Indians smoking the opium, you can see it in their dark eyes, all black. And teeth. and they have so many sex women too… it’s disgusting”
“Really, it’s crazy”
<train announcement starts>
“How much do I owe you? Thanks!”
“Thanks, man, have a good one! Ciao bello! You still look like Dr Who!”
And so I retreated.
*Pretty paraphrased as it was a bit ago, but you get the general idea