I'm know I'm probably absolutely definitely (not) the first to make this statement, so here it is: if there's something that just snaps the three peas right out of my pod, it's being forced to learn mundane and unimportant information about people I will most likely never meet again on an introductory level. You know it. I know it. But we all do it: small talk. Now, a part of me doesn't mind small talk! (But most of me mother fucking hates it.)
If you don't know what small talk is, let me paint you a pretty Picasso portrait picture. According to Wikipedia, a completely reliable source, small talk is defined as "an informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed" (*Wikipedia author here). But in regular people language, small talk is any type of conversation that takes the place of telling someone what you're actually thinking. Right? Right?! All you basics know I'm right. But even though small talk makes the hairs on our neck stand up and whisper "you're a joke" in our ears, we all get good at it because that gives us free access and a free conscious to openly talk shit about them once we finally escape (except for my friend Philip who says it's "just not natural" for him. Whatever he's dumb).
I was working for a very upscale cocktail bar a few months back. And when I say upscale, I mean its force field of affluence is designed to orbit around the building's perimeter and keep out the heathens of the world: people with salaries under six figures. I racked up a list of some real ground-breaking tasks at this job including putting coats in a closet two steps away, telling my GM when we're out of Post-Its, and showing that lady with the droopy drunk face where the bathroom is for the fourth time. I was constantly told I was a crucial member to the team. I just can't believe how blessed I am you guys.
But the majority of my job was centered around my interaction with guests right as they walk in the door. And so began the devil's creation. When a guest walks in, the first thing I say is "Hello" because... what the hell else would you say? The second thing I say (in the current seasonal climate) is "Can I take any of your coats?" And without a third staple line ready to go, it's time to break out my Level 1 improv skills and say something (jk anything) to make the interaction less awkward.
"Hope you weren't freezing too much out there!"
"Well at least Christmas season is coming early!"
or my favorite
"Can you believe it's this cold out already???"
all work to keep things flowing. But note, they will all make you feel like an asshole. Especially that third one. Because yes, it is this cold out already. So yes, I can believe it. God what level have I sunk to?
And the best part about small talk is listening to the responses that follow these questions. Some of them are very rehearsed. Some of them are very in the moment. Some of them are given a moment's thought. And all of them are annoying. Common responses are as follows:
"Oh I know! I had to break out my winter coat!"
"We're from California! This is so weird!"
"I was worried my iPhone was gonna freeze!"
"My wife just left me!"
My comebacks to each of these (even that last one...) contain some sort of forced smile, a slight tilt of the head, and the phrase: "Oh my god. No way!" This is a staple response because it fits into almost every small talk response format, and I don't even have to actually listen. Whether it be used as a means of disbelief, an exclamation of agreement, or a cover up for my real thought "Oh my god! Who cares!," the performance kills with flying colors, and the guest thinks I actually care that their Michael Kors was bought on sale (which it wasn't. It's in the new collection).
When you think it's almost over and you're one step away from jumping off the small talk cliff into a pool of welcomed silence, the guest looks around, amazed at the wealth of the establishment, and says: "You must love working here! Don't you love working here?"
This is where you're ability to put some major BS sauce on your small talk bagel is put to the toaster. Because you have two options: the wrong answer and the less wrong answer. And for a moment, I contemplate what the fate behind each of these answers is. One is the truth, but not appropriate to say out loud. The other is a lie, and also not appropriate to say out loud. And by the time I have my answer, the guest has been watching me mentally decide with a far away glance for a good 10 seconds and probably doesn't care anymore. But whether or not they're listening, I take a deep inhale, squint my eyes, and say:
"I'll let you decide."
It trump's em every time. And it turns small talk into some major talk. Because small talk isn't fun until you make it weird. And boy do I make it weird.
We all know if we want to be friends with someone five seconds into meeting them. Let's skip the small talk and let them down harshly. Things will go so much more quickly.