Sunday, October 21, 2001

I spent the majority of the day out in the yard raking leaves, taking down the siderails and the ropeladder on the treehouse, cleaning out flowerbeds and putting everything to bed before winter moves in. The fresh air did my spirit good. I also spent some time talking to my semi-retired neighbor. He's the nicest guy but he does have one quirk - he's a Serial Talker.

"What's that?", you may well ask. Go on, ask.

OK, I'll tell you. A Serial Talker is one who dominates a conversation with a steady, unending stream of conciousness, never letting you add to what is supposed to be a dialog. Practiced serial talkers can keep a monologue going (without even apparent pauses for an intake of breath) for upwards of twenty minutes. Next time you are having a conversation with someone, note that there are occasional pauses where the speaker finishes a contained thought and a natural break will occur in their speech. At this point, you will normally:
  1. make some sort of affirmative noise, encouraging them to go on, or
  2. insert a question to pull more information out of the speaker, or
  3. take your turn at adding to the dialog, or
  4. end the conversation and go back to what you were doing before you started talking to that person.

With a Serial Talker, this natural pause, this volley of the conversational tennis ball of control and focus never occurs. They hang onto the ball ... and run.

This morning, I was clearing the table and needed to shake off the tablecloth. I gathered it up, went out the front door and was spotted. The serial talker had me in his sights and innocuously lured me over.

"Hear about the water ban?" he coyly asks.

"Why, no." I niavely answer. "Is there one?" At this point, I have wandered out of the house and into full view. It is a brisk spring morning and I am wearing slippers (thank God) but no socks, jeans and a light t-shirt. I am in full view, with no one else to protect or distract me. My serial talker neighbor seems especially adept at luring me into his grasp when I am busy, distracted or (as is the case now) in some sort of physical discomfort - I will soon be freezing to death. The conversation banters back and forth for a few seconds, and then it starts. The serial talker's amblings cut a zig-zag path through present and past experiences, with various relavant bits of city and world events thrown in as I try (in vain) to enter the conversation again. Only those who have dealt with seasoned serial talkers know the frustration felt by the thought, quip or anecdote that watches the conversation's course weave towards it's getting-out point, only to have the train of thought continue on without so much as a toot of the whistle. The thought can only settle back in it's seat and forelornly watch it's stop quickly fade into the distance. No combination of insertions, monosylabic exclaimations, facial expressions or body language seems to put the dedicated Serial Talker off.

By now, I've spent about ten minutes outside listening to the serial talker. I have goosebumps and am visibly shivering when he remarks "... but I don't want to go on boring you - you must be freezing in just a t-shirt and look at me, with my down-filled parka."

At this point, I don't dare give him any tidbit of answer to continue on from, so I blurt out "Yeah," smile slightly, wave a hand in a terse "goodbye", and physically back away. I head for the house before hypothermia sets in.

Later in the day, I ended up out in the yard with a sweater and proper shoes and socks, ready now in case I should be cornered or lured over again. I did end up talking to him later in the day, only to be rescued by Jenn. That's what wives are for - getting their husbands out of awkward social situations.

Don't get me wrong, he's a nice guy, but, jeez, I wish he'd let me get a word in edgewise.

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