Monday, November 28, 2005

So I've decided that I must be the easiest person in the world to talk to...

...because it appears that a disturbing number of people are utterly incapable of shutting the hell up around me. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you are one of these people. If you find this is the case, please don't leave any comments on this entry, as that would be tantamount to listening to you blather on, and would thus defeat the entire purpose of this rant.

For reference, the following is a a complete listing of the three types of Babbling Brooks I encounter with ear-splintering regularity. These are the kinds of people who make it their lives' ambition to orally remove as much sweet, precious, life-giving oxygen from the planet's atmosphere and regurgitate it in the form of carbon dioxide mixed with useless bits of personal minutiae.

1.) "Will you be my friend?": "Will you be my friend?" is in many ways the most pitiable and yet the most aggravating of the Babblers Three. He is lonely and needy and just wants the world to like him. But seeing as how he doesn't have access to the rest of the world (and not without good reason), he is content to start with you. This is the price one pays for behaving like a decent human being in public (Yes, believe it or not, the cynical idealist himself is a generally reserved and polite member of society when forced to interact with the rest of you monkey descendants in the real world). WYBMF is often known to be softspoken, or have a stammer, or -- gods help you -- both. Therefore, not only must you endure his mind-softening case of the verbal runs, you also have to strain and/or wait "patiently" to hear it. People who are accomplished assholes never have to deal with WYBMFs because they make themselves so obviously unapproachable from the start. This is the only thing one should ever envy about an asshole. That, and their cars. Rich pricks.

Ways to deal with him/her: You can simply offer monosyllabic or non-answers and wait it out until the pauses become so uncomfortable that he's forced to make an awkward exit. WYBMFs are notoriously bad with small talk. Fail to express interest in his Quarters of the United States collection and he will be stumped. If in the workplace (note that I did not write "at the office" because I do not work in an office and I refuse to bend to the will of the majority, so suck on it sideways), just busy yourself with something--anything--and he will eventually take the hint. Though irritating and neglected, WYBMFs are rarely stupid.

2.) The Narcissist: The best thing one can say about The Narcissist is that he doesn't require you to make sympathetic noises or timed responses or even pay attention to him at all. There is only one person The Narcissist is trying to entertain, and that is The Narcissist. Your purpose is simply to make it look like he isn't talking to himself. Everyone has a Narcissist somewhere in their daily lives. Being a begrudging member of the acting community (I know what you're thinking and no, I'm not), I can't throw a cement block without hitting several Narcissists. Well, I mean, I could, but I've got pretty good aim. ZING! Anyway, The Narcissist has an apparently endless array of things to tell you about his life, and his friends, and his passions, and his ideas, and what he did last night, and what he ate this morning, and why his last relationship didn't work out, and how many people he's sleeping with, and why his politics are so important, and so on and so on and so on. Assholes rarely have to deal directly with this Babbler as they are generally Narcissists themselves.

Ways to deal with him/her: Unfortunately, you cannot simply wait The Narcissist out. It is in his nature to have a bottomless supply of inconsequential things to discuss with you (for "discuss with you" read "say at you"). Since he doesn't demand frequent -- or indeed any -- acknowledgement, however, feel free to go about your business as usual. Though it will do nothing to discourage the soul-withering egotistic refuse he spews forth without shame, rest assured he will eventually attach himself to another unsuspecting victim much as a lamprey attaches itself to an unblooded salmon.

3.) The Turn-Taker: Uh-oh. Now you've done it. Of the Babbling Triad, The Turn-Taker is easily the deadliest, most relentless, most teeth-grindingly infuriating Babbler of them all. The Turn-Taker is not merely content with talking at you or making chit-chat. No, this merciless magpie actually expects you to sit there, maintain eye contact, and carry on a conversation with her! I should point out the obvious change in gender-specific pronouns I have adopted for this example; "her" rather than "him." This is because, if you are anything like me, The Turn-Taker is your wife. Or your girlfriend. Or your mother. Or just some girl in line behind you at Wendy's. In a woman's perfect world, the following sample of dialogue would be commonplace...

WOMAN: I can't believe that scarf I've wanted for days -- you know, that purple cashmere one with the little cute fringies? -- I can't believe I got it on sale for 3% off just across the street! Can you believe it? Can you?

MAN (leaning in, fascinated): Tell me more...

This is how the previous conversation would play out in the cynical idealist's home...

MRS. T.C.I.: I can't believe that scarf I've wanted for days -- you know, that purple cashmere one with the little cute fringies? -- I can't believe I got it on sale for 3% off just across the street! Can you believe it? Can you?

T.C.I. (thinking to himself furiously): Oh god, oh god, oh god, I heard the word "purple" and the word "three," and I think she ended the sentence with an upward inflection. This must be a question! Is it a yes or no question? Is she just looking for a self-esteem boost? Oh god, think, think!

MRS. T.C.I.: Well...?

T.C.I.: Um ... why did you buy three of them?

MRS. T.C.I.: [enters into lengthy, expletive-riddled rant/pout about how T.C.I. never talks to her anymore]

Unlike WYBMF, The Turn-Taker will not be put off easily, and unlike The Narcissist, she fully expects you to respond to her incessant nattering in some detail. She demands your attention and your interest and, worst of all, the involvement of that cobwebbed, intellectual part of your brain that you generally only trot out to help count back change. Good news, however. Assholes are as helpless around The Turn-Taker as the rest of us. So there's that.

Ways to deal with her: Unless you enjoy tedious conversations about feelings and coupons and the future and Aunt Enid Marie's tasty new torte recipe and the weird lightbulb in the hall that flickers on and off and whether or not you should get storm windows and how much snow fell across town last night, I am sorry to say that there is no overcoming The Turn-Taker. Prepare yourself for a lifelong struggle of sisyphean proportions. That, or just avoid women altogether. But, believe me, they'll find you. Oh, they'll find you...

So there you have it. My useless ability to feign interest in other people's petty concerns while maintaining a non-threatening, vacant stare looks to be earning me a lifetime of cerebral numbness. At this point, I either need to go quickly deaf (and for those of you who have ever heard my wife's preferred speaking volume, this will not seem an unlikely option) or move to a country where I won't be able to understand anyone.

Like England.

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