My Week 3 – Thanksgiving And Small Talk

Monday, when Ken and I ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving:

So we just celebrated Thanksgiving, and Ken and I were driving down to the cottage. It occurred to me that it was weird that we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans celebrate it in November, and what’s it all about anyway? And this is the conversation that ensued. Just for the record, Ken and I aren’t fussy about the accuracy of our facts:

Me: So why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans do it in November? What’s with that?
Ken: I don’t know—maybe their harvest is later than ours since they’re further south. They’re both just about giving thanks for a good harvest anyway.
Me: That’s not why the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving—they didn’t HAVE a harvest, that was the whole point. The Puritans came over here completely ill-equipped to survive. They were literally starving to death, and the Indians shared THEIR harvest with them, and basically saved their lives.
Ken: Oh yeah—“Thanks so much for your generosity—in return, here’s some small pox.”
Me: I know, right? “And some alcohol.” That’s gratitude for you. Do you think the native Americans “celebrate” Thanksgiving, or do they secretly call it something different, like “The Day We Wish You’d Never Shown Up”?
Ken: All I know is that Sherman Alexie just tweeted out that in celebration of Columbus Day, he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a time machine, so that he could go back in time and stop Columbus from finding the New World.
Me: Seems about right.

Wednesday: I realize that I’m even worse at small talk than I am at actual conversations.

I know I’ve already demonstrated my shortcomings when it comes to contributing to conversations with people I know, but that pales in comparison to my struggles with small talk. Here’s an example. I had to get my car’s thermostat replaced last week, so I took it to the car dealership, and they gave me a rental car, since I’m now a “VIP” by way of the fact that I’ve bought 3 cars from the same car guy (mostly because now I know him and we NEVER HAVE TO MAKE SMALL TALK). He’s great, and he doesn’t mind if I text him at dinner to see if I can test drive stuff (As a side note, I thought he was still at work, and when I realized that he was at home, I was horrified because I absolutely avoid imposing myself on anyone except my family, but he was really nice about it, and set up the test drive anyway).

Anyway, they called for a shuttle driver, who wanted to talk about the weather, and traffic, and that was OK because all I had to do was say, Mm hmm, and Right, and Really? and things like that. But then I got to the car rental place, and the rental guy was one of those SUPER-FRIENDLY people who wants to chat, and that‘s when things got uncomfortable. I’m kind of an introvert, and I was tired, and it was the end of a long day, so I can’t really be held responsible for the verbal fiasco to come. He proudly announced that he was going to give me the “brother” to my car, so I was kind of hyped up, thinking I was getting an awesome ride, then he took me outside and presented me with a Chevy Cruze. It was navy blue, and kind of scruffy. He looked at me expectantly, and I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “A Cruze. My dad says it has a good engine.” Then the conversation took a bizarre turn. (Mom, I need a favour. I know that you’ll be reading this before Dad, so I need you to promise to read this story OUT LOUD to him, and when you get to this part, skip over it. Make something up, like the guy asked me out and I initially accepted because I was so flustered, then I had to break it to him that I was happily married. Seriously. I swear to God I will do anything for you, including taking you to the casino if you do this for me.) OK. The rental guy looked at me and asked, “Oh, does your Dad work for GM?”  and then I became confused, (because how is that in any sense of the word, a LOGICAL connection?) and I said, without thinking, “Nuh, he’s just some old guy.” I knew as soon as I said it that it wasn’t even close to being an appropriate response, and to make things worse, the rental guy gave me a funny look, and said, “OK then,” in that kind of dismissive way people have, and I tried to make things better by explaining that my father was a retired teacher, etc. and not even that old, but VERY SMART when it came to cars. This, unfortunately encouraged him, and he started talking about his wife the teacher, and how she had to teach some students whose family got blown up on a boat (?) but I wasn’t really listening and just fell back on Mm hmm, and Right, and Really? which seems in retrospect to always be the safe, non-offensive choice for someone who isn’t good at small talk.

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