Sunday, August 22, 2010

Say No Go

Last week I read a headline in the newspaper: “Mall ban on starting chitchat is quashed” ( I thought, a chitchat ban? Is this where we’re headed? If so, there goes my last chance of ever finding a new friend or a man to love. If chitchat is banned in malls—and then grocery stores and gyms—then I will be rendered mute in the world outside my home.

Not that the world is a particularly chatty place to begin with. I go to the gym and get my nerve up to say hi to a man, then I see his ears are plugged, wires dangling down to his MP3 player. Everybody’s wearing ear buds or headphones. Am I supposed to use sign language to chitchat with people at the gym? The only sign language I know are the letters “a”, “b”, and “c”. I’m sure I’d make a lot of new friends that way, running around signing “ABC! ABC!” Somebody get that spelling girl out of here.

Even if people at the gym aren’t wearing ear buds, who really looks you in the eyes anymore? Stare at anybody longer than two seconds and they think you’re a freak. Up until just recently I’d been making a point to smile at one elderly Indian lady at my gym, a silent and glum-looking member of our Silver Sneakers club. It was my project to make this lady know that I noticed we worked out at the same time, and I remembered her face: we were in this together! At first she kind of smiled back, but after several encounters with my pearly whites, she conveyed with her narrowed eyes and curled lip that she was displeased with the attention, so I knocked it off.

Pretty much the only people I chitchat with anymore are receptionist-types and check-out clerks—trapped people. Yesterday I showed the big purple and green bruise on my knuckle to the girl ringing up my stuff at the health food store: “Look at this!” I said, shoving my gnarly contusion in her face. “I accidentally punched the armrest on the treadmill!”

“Oh my God!” she screamed. “That looks like it hurts!”

“It does,” I said, breathing in my daily dose of chitchat. “It hurts a lot.”

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  1. This makes me think of watching students walk between classes with electronic chiclets pressed to their ears, announcing that they have already met all the interesting people they need to meet. Imagine the lost opportunities for interesting conversations, new friendships, good advice, and just plain human contact. Remember how much a part of your college experience those spontaneous talks over coffee in the student union were?

  2. Thats just sad that they even had to think about banning chitchatting at the mall. Just NUTS if you ask me.

    Have not stopped by in a bit and need to catch up. Hope all is well with you and yours.

  3. Another incisive reflection on life's ridiculousities. I think I made that word up, but I like it. Pronounce: Ree-Dick-You-Loss-It-Ease

  4. Yup, our next generation of folks will be socially inept. It's inevitable.....

  5. Chitchat is greatly overrated. When I'm having lunch at the food court, people are always bothering me with silly questions like "Is the souvlaki any good?", "Where is the bookstore?", and "Are you into a quickie in the washroom?"

    If I can have them thrown in jail for bothering me, I don't see a problem with that.

  6. Kate great post. I went to a gym daily for 18 months and made zero friends. There were one or two you could smile at but that's about it.

    I wonder if all these people with ear phones in constantly get home and spend hours chatting on line?