Saturday, 14 September 2013

Talking to strangers

is not for everyone. Some people do not feel comfortable about doing it at any time. Other people avoid it if they can but will be polite. Yet other people will have a casual chat. Still others will tell you their life story.
I am a writer. Other people interest me. I like to observe them. I often like to listen to them. If they tell me their life story, or something which has just happened to them, then there might be something there I can use.
I don't always feel comfortable with people. I hate it when people "invade my space". There are people I am wary of, even very wary of.  I don't always want to listen, especially to a life story of someone who has little say and many words to say it in.
There are times when I don't feel like talking too. I try always to have a book in my bag and some knitting.
Knitting causes all sorts of comments. Other knitters are often good casual travelling companions. We can talk about patterns, yarns, techniques, designs and disasters. Even knitters who are happy to just follow a pattern will take an interest in the knitting of someone like me who never follows a pattern but will use other people's ideas.
You can go on knitting while you talk. The other knitter may pass over a problem or ask to see how something is done or question why you work from the top down instead of the bottom up - or, in the case of socks, from the toe to the top or the top to the toe. The merits of the yarn being used can be discussed. The difficulty of sourcing the right yarn and colour for the project are things that can only be understood by another knitter. If you need to count stitches they will remain silent.
Books however are another story. You are not immune from someone striking up a conversation if you are reading. Reading is not a sacred activity. Indeed it would seem reading is what you do simply because you do not have someone with whom to make conversation. There they are willing to make conversation. Why wouldn't you want to talk to them?
"What are you reading?" and "Is it good book?" or "Do you really read that stuff?"
The answer to the first question is easy. You show them the cover. The second one is more difficult. Do you say "yes" or "no" or "I don't know yet" or perhaps, "It seems to be" or "Of course it is, that's why I'm reading it" ? The third is obvious and, oddly, the most difficult of all. Yes, people really do read "that stuff" - for me "that stuff" might be a book about another language. Perhaps a better question for you to have asked me would by "Why are you reading that?" People don't seem to ask that question. Strangely if people are reading a book in another language the same comment about whether you are really reading it does not appear to apply. Perhaps the assumption is that the reader does not speak English?
But if the book is in English then, in this country, it seems you are free to start a conversation. I know just what is coming next too.
           "I'm not much of a reader myself."
No, that's obvious. If you were a reader you would not interrupt another reader.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

When my mother used to visit us (twice a year) she always told us about the person sitting next to her on the plane. She had the knack of being able to start conversations with everyone. I should have asked her how it's done.