I recently was talking to a man, and the conversation went downhill quickly once he started talking about being raptured, as if it was a common conversational topic like talking about the weather. The problem with this is two-fold: firstly, it is nearly impossible to sidestep that comment because I was so dumbfounded by it, and secondly, there’s a part of me that’s constantly curious and wants to know what makes a guy like that tick.
I consider myself a conversational wizard when it comes to diverting people’s attention to something else, but when I’m caught off-guard with rapture talk, I sit there in a stupor, my confusion written across my face, hoping someone will pinch me and I’ll wake up to find out it was all a dream. But as he rambled on about when “he dies or gets raptured” several times in succession, there was a point where I wanted to point out that he was no spring chicken, and regardless of what he believed, there’s statistically a better chance of him just dying and maybe he can leave the coming of Christ out of each reference to death as if it was a 50/50 shot at either outcome.
This man clearly wasn’t all there, but there’s a plethora of conversations like this that I feel like I have on a daily basis. And if I feel like it makes a good story, the chances are I’m going to listen. I’m a sucker for a good story, especially if I can call someone up on the phone and say, “You’re never going to believe what just happened to me…”
Most of my friends and family have been on the receiving end of those phone calls. I like telling stories, and I frequently get asked what I do that makes people like the rapture man talk to me. I honestly can’t say that I know. But I will say that I missed the memo as a kid that talking to strangers is a bad thing. I don’t really mind hearing a snippet of someone’s life, and I’m probably not going to shut them down once I disagree with them, because the crazier the conversation, the more I stare at them, mouth opened, waiting for the next twist to the story.
When I worked in Sydney, I stopped complete strangers on the street and convinced them to sign a two year contract to give money each month to various charities. It was by no means an easy job, but there was a large part of it that I enjoyed. I don’t feel that I’m overly social, and I want to melt into a puddle of myself in huge group gatherings because I find the idea of mingling with mass quantities of people overwhelming. But I can absolutely kill a one on one conversation with a stranger. And it’s because I genuinely want to know what they are up to and ask a million follow up questions.
Sometimes I wonder if I like alone time so much that once I get out into the real world I talk to anyone who will listen, but regardless, I somehow have finagled my way into another job that involves me talking to complete strangers over the phone to help with the research group I’m now working with. I recently told a coworker of mine that I feel like people talk to me because I’m a bit of an asshole myself so, in turn, I speak it fluently. I would want nothing to do with someone calling me up on the phone for a survey, so I’ve got to be creative in convincing the mystery voice on the other end that I’m worth talking to, as I would if I were to reach a Carly in a different dimension on the other end. As the phone rings, I wonder in the anticipation of each buzz who will be on the other end. I’m better at reading people’s social cues and having conversations in person for sure, so being on the phone adds a somewhat crippling factor to me.
Now that I’m in this routine of working, I start to get a little caught up in the monotony of day to day life. Part of the reason I like to move around and explore new cities is because it is refreshing to be out of my element and drink in a whole new world.
This week, after another 9-5 shift, I walked to the grocery, nodded to the clerk who runs the self check at nights. He now has been used to me checking out with a bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream, so instead gives me a wave of approval and doesn’t bother to check my ID anymore. I wondered if the monotony had finally settled in with my time in Seattle.
Even the checkout guy seems to know my guilty pleasure is to sit at home on my couch, watch the Real Housewives and eat ice cream out of the pint. So when I got a tube of cookie dough instead this week after deciding my ice cream budget was out of hand, changing up my routine, I watched him stare at my tube of cookie dough and felt the judgement. I expected that he pieced together relatively easily that I was not actually making cookies, but rather eating the dough straight from the tube. Logically, this would satisfy my sweet tooth and last longer than a pint of ice cream does in Chez Lauck, which is about one sitting, two if I try to channel some self-restraint.
I don’t talk to the checkout guy other than small talk, but I wondered if I’m the subject of his random conversations in the same way that I frequently run my mouth to my friends and family about a rando I talked to in Starbucks or while walking the trail at Green Lake. Like maybe this guy runs home and calls his friend saying, “You know that crazy girl who lives on ice cream and wine? Now she’s hit rock bottom and is eating cookie dough out of the tube.”
Perhaps I am on the other end of the conversation more than I think. And maybe it takes a certain amount of craziness on my end to embrace the kooky discussions I have with other people in the first place. But weirdly enough, I think that is how I am able to function when I travel so much. While the conversations are sometimes weird, I have met most of my friends by partaking in a completely random exchange. So maybe there is a law of averages on how many weird conversations I have to the number of genuinely cool people who I meet through them. And all of the chats I have in between just become interesting stories for me to tell.