No, no, no, the LAST thing I want is a conversation. (The daily perils of being an introvert.)

You know what it’s like. You keep meaning to write a new blog post, get caught up doing all sorts of other stuff, and then suddenly it’s been five months. Going this long without my winning observations, wry turns of phrase, and piercing insight – well, I hope you haven’t felt too impoverished. I’m doing ok. How about you?

Anyhow, given this post is really about a meeting in a swimming pool, how about we strip off a few layers and dive right in.

“Meeting,” though, is an overstatement. At a local pool with my wife, two young daughters, and in-laws, it’s more accurate to say I sat near a stranger who, naturally, figured that must mean I did so in order to join her in a long conversation.

Whenever this sort of thing happens, I get the real answer to the question we all sometimes ask ourselves: am I an introvert or an extrovert? In spite of occasional forays into the latter camp, I am, at heart, the former. Meaning: no, no, no, the LAST thing I want is a conversation.

Swimming Pool

The lady I sat next to at the pool wasn’t so terrible. But from the first syllable of the first word she said to me (who remembers?), my brain instantly devoted itself to a single line of thought, as if a drone missile homing in on its unfortunate target. What is the optimal way of extricating myself from this conversation? Not “quickest,” exactly. I’m not a monster. Nor, quite, “most efficient.” Being an introvert is not incompatible with being polite – and many are the times we introverts gamely go about the façade of, you know, giving a shit.*

The lady I sat next to at the pool lived in Arizona for a number of years, moving there when she was 22, and moving back to New Jersey because of her husband’s work, even though she could happily have stayed. And Arizona summers are very hot, but it’s a dry heat. And the winters are just fine. And you get used to it all, anyway, and there’s plenty for kids to do, and Phoenix is the big city….

It never stops amazing me how much information people volunteer about themselves. Time and again, I offer the slightest morsels (“I’m Jon”) and am returned an unwanted feast. What, I wonder, is my incentive for getting to know you better if you give so much away for nothing? (Well, almost nothing: experience tells me I’m a ‘good’ listener. In a world that doesn’t do anywhere near enough to discourage narcissism, it’s like always having the radio on while mostly wanting to switch if off.)

In the aggregate, most people are ok. Right? But getting to know actual individual people can be such a fucking drag. Never mind big-ticket items – racism, sexism, homophobia, self-absorption, self-righteousness, a lack of interest in sport – what if they don’t like David Bowie? Or really want to talk about something “unbelievable” on Bravo, or TLC, last night? Or – it kills me how often this happens – they are a certifiable arsehole without realizing it?

I don’t get to spend one-quarter enough time with people I like. Love, even. Yet – you too? – circumstances often compel me to “engage” in all sorts of conversations, which, left to my own devices, I’d cross several roads to avoid.

As a very small consolation, can we at least agree that extroverts aren’t, necessarily, morally superior, nor introverts, necessarily, awkward and mean-spirited? You never know, befriend me slowly and it might just be worth the wait.

Or not. Whatever. No big deal.


Colette wearing glasses

*In the end, I swam away a few feet to join my little daughter. (Can happily spend forever with my girls – they’re lovely.)

*****

Today’s post soundtracked by:

Suede

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About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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8 Responses to No, no, no, the LAST thing I want is a conversation. (The daily perils of being an introvert.)

  1. dad says:

    As you know, I totally agree, just why do total strangers, who we are never going to see again in a million years, insist on boring the pants of us by telling everything about themselves. If we want to know their lifestory we will ask, so why do they insist on doing so when we don’t ? Blah, blah, blah, boring, boring, boring.

  2. Mary says:

    You pair of miserable so and so’s! I like nothing more than spending a little time listening to other people’s stories. Not all people, of course, some I can’t move away from quick enough, but often they have such interesting things to say, and If I left conversation only it to those who I like and love, there wouldn’t be any, or at least not much!! My advice to you Jon is stick the biggest pair of earphones in your bag, whether travelling on a train or by the pool, clamp them on your ears, and I guarantee no one will bother you.

    • Hmmm, some stories are ok… and some are dull as dishwater. Earphones are a good idea (already use to great effect on public transit), but maybe not so great for the pool….

  3. Rob says:

    I think it’s very much link to the phone calls at work where you feel obliged to ask if they are ok, did they have a good weekend etc

    At this point they could have the weekend the equivalent of Chernobyl and I would still fail to absorb any details and reply yes I’m good thanks. We ask but we are really not interested

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