There are so many things I’d love to contribute here but I’m afraid I’ll come off as a misanthropic crank. I’m genuinely not, I just have very little tolerance for small talk, or people who just talk to fill the air. My 7th grade English teacher had an expression: “Don’t just talk, say something.” and thirty-odd years later it sticks with me. My parents, even before aging and memory problems kicked in, have always seemed very uncomfortable with silence and would have a tendency to comment or prattle for no reason. Hardly a war crime, but I’m very much the opposite in my temperament and will happily sit in dead silence with people I know.
But I will tell this story. Once again, normal human beings doing normal human things. But painful like a three-pronged garden thingie to my soul. A couple of years after my grandmother passed away, my grandfather got remarried. The ceremony was held at a big resort in Lake George, NY. His new wife had a big family and her whole brood came, but our bench wasn’t quite as deep, so he invited a number of friends for balance, many of whom he’d known when he lived in New Jersey in the fifties and sixties. One of them, resplendent in his swimming pool colored dress suit, felt the need to comment and chuckle on every slightest thing. “Cake twice in one day. Heh-heh-heh.” “Family photo. Heh-heh-heh.” “Some more people arriving. Heh-heh-heh.”
Normal senior citizen behavior. Agony.
The dinner was pretty much the fanciest formal spread I’d ever attended up to that point. Five or more courses, served half an hour apart. Salad (dirty lettuce), soup (who knows?) and then the fruit plate, which was one of those artistic monstrosities with two sliced strawberries, a grape cut in half, a slice of melon, yadda yadda, you know the schtick, I hope they didn’t pay too much for this. When the fruit plate comes, this one woman with a broad New Jersey accent next to whom I’d been seated decides I just need to hear this…(deep breath)
“You know they gawt these seedless wawtuhmelons now? I couldn’t believe it! I sawr it on television, it was AMAZING, they grow these wawtuhmelons without seeds so ya don’t get 'em stuck in ya TEETH, this was fanTAStic, seedless wawtuhmelons. I cawlled my dawtuh I said honey, you heah they gawt these seedless wawtuhmelons? And she said Maw, you get excited about the DARNEDEST things! But to me this is exCITing! Seedless wawtuhmelons…”
I know she was being friendly and I feel like a jerk about it. But sweet jeebus, it was sheer force of will not to respond violently.