Unbeknownst to us all, quarantine transformed us into antisocial beings without the capacity to have conversations anymore. Just the other day, I got confused when I met a freshman while walking on campus and he asked me for my name. The normal has become strange, but I for one miss talking, especially the awkward and silly small talk.
To my own surprise, college made me realize that I enjoy talking to people.
I know, groundbreaking, but really, dare I say that I am now a people person? I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m a total social butterfly—too much commitment needed there—but I concede, chit-chat leaves a rather positive impression in my mind these days. Now, I don’t quite know where this newfound affinity arose, but I think it all started with the receptionist.
My first job ever somehow came about as an office bellboy undertaking. The summer of my freshman year, desperate to have food to eat and pay off living expenses as a low-income college student, I decided to work as a daily receptionist at one of the university’s departments. The morning of my first day of work, I had no idea what to expect. When I walked into the office, a bright-eyed girl at the front desk greeted me with, “Am I training you today?!”
Maybe something infected the air that day, but the moment I saw her, I knew we would be the best of coworkers. As we giggled through the nonsensical training of a receptionist, from the “Just say hi whenever someone walks in” to the“You can do homework here pretty much the entire time,” I couldn’t help but think that my destiny included becoming the next Pam Beesly.
In between exchanging shifts, my receptionist guru and I would chat incessantly, telling each other all the dramatic happenings in our lives.
Somehow her life consisted of endless encounters with men much too old for her, but who nonetheless proved a scintillating prospect. Often her stories would begin with something along the lines of, “So I met this hunk on the BART,” and I would feign excitement.
Though it would be dishonest to say I did not experience even a little… as I often exclaimed, “The BART?! Oh my goodness, how romantic! Was it love at first sight?” Soon enough I often found myself looking forward to these spontaneous tête-à-têtes every week, longing for the next chapter to her beguiling tales.
Indeed, tales usually underset my curiosities, which prompted me to write as an arts reporter for my university’s newspaper. In the rushed excursions to various SF theaters by catching the bus after a day of classes, I found as much joy in the films I reviewed as the conversations I would have with my plus one. Bringing a friend proves a brilliant perk of attending pre-screenings.
The desire for an insightful conversation also led me to interview many artists in the film industry.
The very concept of interviewing a person already tends towards the awkward, and even more so in my case since it took place over the phone. As these busy and famous artists made time for 15 minute calls in between their flights, I found it curious how a list of questions could reveal so much.
When I spoke to an award winning screenwriter, I realized that shifting your approach to asking better questions rather than blindly seeking the right answers gets you further in the quest for an answer. The kind of answer you conjecture will emerge through the limited range of answers you will receive. After all, many answers exist for a single question.
The simple question digs and digs into the unknown, grasping for something to latch onto.
Although hearing my monotonous tone and cringey interpersonal skills pained me as I transcribed our discussions, listening to me go through the process of understanding someone and their work persuaded me of the stirring parallels in studying English and talking to people.
As I interpret your words and how you present your story, whether intentionally or not, I find myself interpreting you. Consequently, if I begin to write about you, I would say a mere hope rests in whether my words have the strength to give voice to who you are.
Conversation gives that indescribable feeling of listening, empathizing, comprehending, thinking and responding. It remains one of the most fundamental pathways to human connection and communication, which induces me all the more to urge you—try talking to the receptionist.