I have never liked small talk. Things don't come spontaneously to mind; I forget to ask about a friend's spouse, and children, their sick parent, the colleges their kids are in, and so on. It's always bothered me that when people say "how are you?" they mostly don't want an answer. I'm intensely interested in other people's stories, but not in the trivia, the surface level, the sugar coating.
When you think about it, small talk results in having the same conversations day after day, week after week, year after year. Mostly, I guess, people don't think about it; which is why they can schmooze and small talk effortlessly, while I'm struggling for something intelligent to say.
One of those conversations that we have year after year is the expression of dismay over how early it gets dark this time of year. Of course, it's easier to agree, but I happen to like this time of year. I may not be a morning person, but there's something about rising and getting ready for the day in the dark that makes me feel that I have the jump on everyone else (though, of course I don't, which I inevitably discover when I get out to the highway each morning). It's easier for me to tolerate this kind of darkness than the cold, endless grey of February and March. In the evenings, there is something that I just love about the light from the street lamps, particularly those in people's driveways or the kind they put in to revitalized town centers to make them look more inviting.
I also love the warm light that emanates from the windows of houses, and if I can catch a glimpse of what's going on inside, just for the split second of driving by, that's even better. Okay, I probably just creeped a whole bunch of people out right there, but ever since I was a kid I would try to imagine the family inside and what they were like. I used to love seeing a guy in his easy chair reading the evening paper - something that probably doesn't happen much anymore.
Writing this has put an old poem back in my head, one that I chose to memorize for some public speaking exercise that I had to do back in the second or third grade - something else that probably doesn't happen much anymore either.
Robert Louis Stevenson
- My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky.
- It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
- For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
- With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.
- Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
- And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be;
- But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do,
- O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!
- For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
- And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
- And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;
- O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!