I was in my usual Sainsbury’s again today – I know, it’s been far too long, and I’m sorry, as I’m aware that many of you listen and read these Dollops mainly in the hope that there’ll be another anecdote from Sainsbury’s just around the corner, but instead you have to put up with me blabbering on about revenge porn and eccentric martial arts practitioners. The lady helping me around the shop was someone new. We got chatting a bit, and she asked me if I had any plans later this evening.
It’s only now when writing about this, that I’ve realised that this might have been her propositioning me. At the time, I just took it as trivial small talk, but perhaps I’ve just inadvertently rejected the woman who would have been the love of my life. Perhaps by unconsciously spurning this woman, I am responsible for the death of one of more people. For all I know, me and this girl might have had children, but now, because of my inability to read her subtle come-on, I have destined them to never being born. And what if one of those children would have grown up to discover a cure for all the world’s diseases, or find a solution for world peace, or a way to eradicate the effects of climate change? Oh dear, what have I done? Hang on, I think I best pop back to Sainsbury’s, and make sure that she wasn’t asking me on a date. I don’t want to be haunted by the notion that I might be in some way responsible for future global disease, warfare and ecological disaster. I’ll be back.
OK, I’m back. It turns out that she was just making trivial small talk. Still, it’s a weight off my mind. At least the world’s problems don’t lie at my door any more, if anything, it’s down to her, as now she’s rejecting me, potentially dooming the world to all sorts of untold horrors. I tried pointing this out to her, but she freaked out and called security who escorted me out of the shop. So, I might have to walk those extra couple of miles to shop at the co-op after all, Michael.
The trouble is, in a trivial small talk situation with a stranger, it’s difficult for me to know the kind of answer to give when someone asks me a question about my life. If I was to give a truthful answer to the shop assistant’s question, “do you have any plans this evening?” then the answer would be so unconventional and odd that it kind of transcends the general parameters of the small talk framework. We are merely passing a tiny amount of time, a few seconds in between walking to find the next item. It’s difficult to truthfully answer her question in the few seconds we’ve got. The purpose of this small talk is merely superfluous, requiring basic, general kind of chat.
If I was a normal person, then my answer might be something like, “I might just watch a bit of TV and chill.” But my life is a bit weird, and so if I was to give an honest answer to her question then it would be: “I’ll spend an hour or so writing up the conversation I’m having with you right now, over-analysing it in immense detail in the hope that it will be funny and entertaining for the few hundred readers of my daily blog and listeners of my daily podcast. I’ll then do some work for a DJ set that I’ll be doing a folk festival in August. Currently I’m mixing Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars with Northumbrian pipe music. How about you?”
“Er, I just thought I might watch a bit of TV and chill.”
I found this kind of odd conversational exchange would happen quite a lot when I had an office job. I was so out of touch with the subjects that everyone else was chatting about. “Did you see X-Factor over the weekend?” “what about the football?” And I’d completely draw a blank. Everyone in the office would say what they’d been doing over the weekend: watching x-Factor or strictly, going to the football, shopping, taking the children out … Then it would come to me and I’d say: “I got drunk with loads of Dutch, German and Polish sea shanty singers in Holland.” And oddly, even though I think that all that is pretty interesting, it would kind of put the kibosh on the conversation, because it wasn’t relatable.
So when the shop assistant asked me what I was doing this evening, I just told her that I’d probably watch a bit of TV and chill. It’s just a lot easier, especially when you’re just talking in brief statements, in between walking to the next isle to get the next thing on my shopping list. But maybe if I’d been honest with her and told her about mixing Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars with Northumbrian pipe music, she would have found me more interesting and might have been more amenable to the idea of a date. Hmm, maybe I should pop back to Sainsbury’s again and tell her. I mean, it would be a shame if the only thing stopping us from having our planet-saving children is that I lied about my evening plans. What if it turns out that her three favourite things in the whole world are Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars and Northumbrian Pipe music? I might be her perfect man, and she’ll never know. Maybe the world might be saved from ecological disaster, disease and warfare after all. Hang on, I’ll be back.
OK, I’m back. Yes, it looks like I’ll definitely have to make that two mile walk to the co-op now. She told me that I was a weird stalker and called security again. As I was being dragged out, I tried to explain to her that I wasn’t a stalker, and shouted to her that she’d understand everything if she went to my website, where I’ve written all about her and our meeting. To be honest, I’m not sure that this statement really did anything to put her mind at ease, in fact it probably just corroborated her opinion of me as a weird stalker.
Well, it’s true what they say: careless talk costs lives. For if I had chosen my words more carefully, then I might have got married to this shop assistant, and went onto have children who may have been responsible for saving our planet. But more importantly, in this instance, careless talk also costs nectar points, as now I’m unable to cash them in, given that I’ve been banned from shopping at Sainsbury’s. I hope you heed the moral of this story my friends.