This thought occurred to me only about an hour before posting this blog entry. It came to me after I visited the local petrol station to get myself some tasty beverages for the weekend, making use of the great 2 for £2 deal!
That’s beside the point though. Let me paint you a word picture. I enter the station and get in line behind these three people who are talking among each other and having a laugh, perhaps slightly annoying the blonde Polish lady behind the counter despite her smiling expression, but nothing wrong or unusual with that. They take a while and I wait patiently behind them. These people, two boys and one girl, seem about in their late teens and dress kind of how you’d imagine ‘chavs’ to dress but only a little. They also seem like half decent people and don’t seem like the scumbags I’m used to experiencing at this kind of hour.
During a break in their conversation, one of the guys turns and catches my gaze. He catches my eye and in a natural response I just nod slightly and say ‘alright?’. Now usually I’d expect someone to just reply with pretty much the same in reply but instead I got something completely different: confusion.
'Do you know that guy?' his friend says to him.
'Nah I don't know who this guy is'.
With that, the people start making their way out of the store without actually saying a word to me. He just seemed confused that I was even making the slightest bit of conversation and I’m still not sure if he appreciated me saying ‘have a good evening’ to him as he passed me to leave. This experience of utter confusion has lead me to think a kind of worrying question. When did it become weird to have a conversation, no matter how small and meaningless, with a complete stranger?
I mean, it’s not like I was rude to the guy! I was just trying to be polite. This has made me think that maybe some kids have grown up not really ever experiencing or knowing how to have small talk between strangers, leading to an anti-social generation. Maybe this has to do with kids growing up with a much more mature internet than I did and social media has took much more priority in people’s lives leading to not wanting to converse with anyone other than people they already know? Yes I spent a lot of time on social media sites as a kid such as MSN messenger and Myspace but I don’t feel so paranoid or confused when people just basically say ‘hello’ to me on the street. I did spend a lot of time talking to strangers on message boards though, perhaps the internet is much more hostile than it used to be then? (I don’t go on message boards anymore really by the way…)
Or maybe I’m just over-thinking it. Let me know if you have any thoughts on this!
Did you huff paint before typing this and then machine translate it through 20 languages before sending it?
Jeff Gerstmann - Master Wordsmith