Strange people of the world: talk to ME!

Weirdness and chaos in the world of my conversations

I’m an irrepressible grump in public (when I’m out alone, or just me and the Sproglette), but not without reason. Categorise my behaviour alongside that of 80-year-old men wearing knee socks, polyester shirts, camphor-scented underwear and muttering about the good old days.

It started during my uni days. I honestly believe someone had tattooed my forehead in my sleep. A tattoo visible to all but me, which read, “Attention strange or annoying people! Talk to me NOW!”

The Greenpeace street recruiters saw it, and signed me up to hand over $24 on a monthly basis, from my paltry part-time-job-fed bank account.  The mobile phone sellers saw it, and sold me a phone on the lowest plan with the highest call rates. And all those times you’ve witnessed a loud conversation between a borderline psycho (perhaps a recently escaped prisoner), and a very uncomfortable-looking person on the train or bus? Well, the cringing person was probably me.

I was a magnet, I tell you.

But times changed. I finished uni and got me a job in the suburbs, where the only method of transport to and fro was my own automobile. And then I moved overseas for a few years. Where the same conversations took place, I’m sure, but blessedly, I didn’t understand a word.

And then I returned to Australia…

I recently found myself smiling politely through really weird conversations taking place in the completely wrong context: at the library, at the checkout in the supermarket, even in my doctor’s waiting room.

These conversations were initiated by complete strangers (albeit, not the weirdo-loser-salespeople of my former years) talking about things I just don’t want to know about. Boyfriend troubles? Check. Flooded toilet at home? Check. Sexual dysfunction? Check. Rare infectious skin diseases? Check!

It made me wonder. What’s the reason for this penchant of ours for striking up conversations with total strangers? I personally think it’s a form of therapy. Never before have our movements and lives been more transparent than in today’s ‘social networking’ age. It’s oh-so-difficult to keep a secret, so most people don’t.

Instead, they spill their secret beans to strangers they’ll never meet again. The minutiae of these conversations are never remembered by either party, and the speaker gets whatever’s bothering them off their metaphorical chest.

This brash and willing openness is an inherently Australian trait, it seems, and one most Aussies are proud of. But it niggles the be-jesus out of me. And after mentioning my frustrations to my friends, who then called me all sorts of names for being so intolerant, I’ve discovered it’s inherently UN-Australian to complain about it.

After months of suffering, I went on strike. I took a stand and shut down every conversation that came my way. When someone initiated a coversations about their infected big toe and runny nose, which leak the same-coloured liquids, I shot them my version of Blue Steel and left them cold.

I was happy for a while. The grumpy public persona did wonders. No-one tried to sell me cable TV at the supermarket anymore. I could buy my milk in peace… Hurrah!

But now I have a problem: life’s become a bit too boring. No one talks to me. I listen wistfully as my friends regale me with witty stories about engaging in weird conversations with people who work at the local takeaway curry joint, and I want to reciprocate with a funny story too.

It’s time for me to stop complaining and drop the grumpy face.

Which is great timing actually, because now I can tell that nice lady I met at the library about the colour of Sproglette’s poo yesterday.

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8 thoughts on “Strange people of the world: talk to ME!

  1. ahahahaha! great post. I too have had that magnet for years! Well there was the recent gaol escapee (apparently) who sat next to me and poured Port on my sandalled feet on a 8 hour bus trip…. and asked me if I had ever “shot a man” and that is just the start. Sure, they get annoying but the story factor can linger for years! Get back on it!

    1. Sharni – thank god nothing quite that bad ever happened to me. Mental note to myself to hog the seat on a long distance trip! Indeed once i moved to Sydney I seemed relatively anonymous. On brisbane’s trains though, I was like a flashing red beacon.

  2. What a brilliant post. After living in London for 5 years where the British are very polite and reserved, I can completely relate to the brashness of the good ol’ Aussie. But I’m kind of embracing it at the moment… while it’s still relevantly new and amusing.

    By the way – what colour was the poo? 😉

    1. Well er… It was rusty orange and full of corn! Poo never ceases to amaze, even after 18 months 🙂

  3. I like talking to strangers. It used to embarrass my children who would pretend they weren’t with me. I’ve made some great, lasting friendships that started out this way! So yeah, drop the grumpy face! Human beings are funny and fascinating, as well as obnoxious and annoying—but you have a 50/50 chance……it’s better than being isolated and bored with no stories to tell.

    1. Dear Molly. Actually, I was talking about this post with a friend of mine, and as I was telling her that I actually wrote it a few months ago, I realised what it was – I’m pretty sure I was undergoing a bit of reverse culture shock when I moved back to Australia. After not understanding any of the coversations around me for the past 2.5 years, it was quite confronting and tiring being able to understand everything around me. For years I’d tuned my ear to pick up any english and pounce on it, so all of a sudden that’s why I felt overwhelmed.

      And now that I’ve settled back in, I think perhaps that’s why I’m ready to let the world back in…! And I truly do love a good yarn, so you’re right. It’s time to start chatting!

  4. haha – I had a weird-magnet on me for a while but it has worn off. (I’m happy about it). But, I am not one to stop eavesdropping on the people next to me and listen to their weird conversations!!!

    And I think corn-poop is the worst.

  5. Haha that’s funny – I felt like that going to noo zooland and people would keep talking to me and asking me questions – it was so wierd and instrusive. Then I remembered we were living in Ukraine at the time when people did the same thing but not being able to understand a thing made it not so annoying. You should do a wierd wednesday post with your latest convos…

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