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“Case of the Mondays”: The Unfortunate Trend Towards Meaningless Conversation May 22, 2007

Posted by pointyhead in humor, life of a chogey, unacceptable phrases, work sucks.

Being a Roaming Chogey, I usually find myself in a nearly-deserted airport when the last remnants of weekend bliss wear off. Today, the haze cleared around 5am in Dulles International Airport when a fellow business traveler asked me (completely without provocation or any indication I was interested in smalltalk), “Early enough for ya?” Apparently not expecting a response, the balding middle-aged khaki-clad business warrior focused on his laptop, ran his fingers through his comb over, and commerced with hammering out slides filled with chevrons and vapid text.

Instead of engaging in what would have UNDOUBTEDLY been riveting conversation, I sat dumbfounded and tried to think of a response that was equally as meaningless. I remained silent, unable to maintain the verbal volley…and the phrase “Looks like someone has a case of the MUN-days” ran through my thoughts like some demented do-loop. When I finally found my mental CTRL-Z, I started wondering why meaningful and sincere conversation was being replaced by a haphazardly-weaved tapestry of buzzwords and cliches.

I don’t profess to have the answer and I am honest enough to enter a “guilty” plea when it comes to avoiding an honest exchange that dares to dig deeper than the last article I read in some trade rag. Sharing original thoughts and opinions requires actually HAVING them…of building a foundation of understanding and then taking the time to create something new. Who has the time for that when it’s far simpler to parrot others?

The realization hit me as I got up(pretending to take an important phone call) and relocated to a position that afforded me the solitude required for such Big Head Thinking. The Meaningless Exchange (ME) feeds the basic, human need for interaction while completely shielding us from accountability, criticism, and challenges presented by opposing views. Hell, who is going to argue with something that came from “The Economist”…even if it’s taken completely out of context and horribly misquoted? The odds are in favor that the unfortunate recipient of said outburst isn’t the author, has read the article, or is even remotely interested (much less informed) on the topic at hand.

We nod politely, utter some inane response like “Hmmm…that’s interesting” or “I think I read that somewhere”, and may even respond with some re-manufactured tid-bit that stretches that standards of relevance. Doing so put us in full compliance with the unspoken Accord of Professional Smalltalk. Our egos remain intact and we can add another tick to our networking tally. The only casualty is another missed opportunity to step out of the “comfort zone”, learn something new. and momentarily shed the facade most of us put up when we have to wear our “grown up” clothes.

This insight was cut short when the gate agent announced the commencement of pre-boarding for preferred passengers and those requiring additional assistance with boarding. As I queued up with the rest of “Seating 2”, Khaki-Man and I shared the obligatory raised eyebrow acknowledgment and silently boarded the plane. Focused on the availability of overhead space, we are saved from thoughts of what could have been.