Dear People who ride the elevator in my building:

Yes, I know—I have a bike! Yes, I ride my bike in the winter time! There’s no need, really, to continue saying things like, “You ride your bike in this weather?” or “You ride your bike in the winter?” or “A bit cold for a bike ride, isn’t it?” (as if I’m going for a recreational spin). The fact is, my bike is my transportation. Cold or not, I ride it most places in the winter time. No need to comment. Truly.

I don’t mean to come off a jerkstore; I understand elevator small talk. A bike is as good a thing to comment on as anything else. I myself often comment on cute babies and dogs.

Why, just the other day I was walking up the street behind a man walking his dog. The dog was a cute, scraggly little terrier wearing a coat and it looked so happy, skipping jauntily. I couldn’t help smiling and even laughing a little at the jaunty way the dog was jaunting along (clearly I’m at a loss for adjectives and adverbs). When I caught up to the man I said, “Your dog looks so happy it made me smile just watching him jaunt” (I don’t know if I used the word jaunt; I hope not).

But technically my exchange with this man about his dog was a compliment, not small talk. Small talk would have sounded more like this: “So…you’ve got a dog, huh?”

Compliments about dogs or children, or shoes or jackets, are okay. Small talk about the weather or the fact that you ride a bike, not so much. I understand small talk—you’re in an elevator, you’ve got a minute or so of uncomfortable silence, and you feel the need to say something, anything. I get small talk. I just don’t like it.

They say you should avoid talking about politics and religion with people, but I would rather jump immediately to politics and religion if it meant I would be spared the small talk.

But please, fellow residents of my building, feel free to compliment me on…pretty much anything!

Sincerely,

Me.

“All over the world
strangers talk only about the weather.
All over the world
it’s the same.”  – Tom Waits

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Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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