I don’t understand how it is …
…that such a large percent of the population lacks the ability to read obvious social cues.
It seems that in every Starbucks, there’s always one patron – at least one – who is determined to strike up – and keep up – a conversation with others who are clearly not interested in a conversation, trying to do something else.
Like read a newspaper, or check e-mail.
It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Like, say a person is already engrossed in something…
And you greet them, or ask them a question.
But they respond to your greeting or question with a short, mumbled response or polite smile … and then they immediately return to their book or paper or typing.
Maybe they appreciate the greeting, but they’ve clearly sent a signal, right?
“I’m busy here and really don’t want to have a conversation right now.”
That’s the signal. That’s the obvious body language message.
Apparently not. Not always.
And definitely not today.
Today, I am in a different Starbucks than I normally visit and there it is, it happened again. A guy – a regular, it turns out – is relaxing with his newspaper – let’s call him Bob –and another regular looks over his notebook PC screen, sees Bob, and calls out to him by name.
Bob smiles (painfully, it seems to me), how-do-you-do’s the other guy – let’s call him Clueless – and then quickly turns his attention back to the newspaper.
Clearly, Bob’s done talking and wants to keep reading his paper.
Not to Mr. Clueless.
Clueless launches into a five minute diatribe against employers in his former profession, throughout which Bob mostly keeps looking down at his paper, nodding occasionally so as to not be too rude to Clueless, and obviously hoping, desperately hoping, that Clueless will get a clue from his social cues.
No such luck.
Finally, Clueless stops talking!
But not because he finally notices that Bob is trying to read a newspaper. No. Apparently Clueless just ran out of complaints.
Oops, my bad – Clueless just wanted a sip of his coffee.
Because he then launches into a new complaint against who-cares-who, which he continues for several more minutes.
I notice that Bob is now doing a lot less looking up from his paper, and even making an occasional sigh.
To anyone but Clueless, yes. Clueless never does get it. He just keeps talking, as though he’s engaged in a two-way conversation, seemingly unaware that he’s the only one talking.
I keep watching…
And I’m wondering when Bob is going to get so frustrated that he just gets up and leaves, giving up on his goal of enjoying a cuppa and his morning paper.
Fortunately, he doesn’t need to, because Clueless finally gets up and leaves, giving Bob a friendly handshake as if to say how much he’s enjoyed this conversation.
So, of course, I immediately walked over to Bob and started a five-minute conversation about how frustrating it must have been and how I hate when people do what Clueless just did, and how much I hate the weather today and how about them Dodgers and …
So, okay, I didn’t really do that.
Don’t I wish this was an isolated incident!
But alas, it ain’t. As one who often uses Starbucks stores as a place to work on a client project or to work on some creative writing effort, I’m often the one who is frustrated by a regular or a stranger determined to have a conversation, clueless to the signals I’m putting out there to say, without saying, that I’m not interested in a conversation.
This time, I get to be the observer.
And I feel for the guy. For Bob. Or whoever he is.
A quick clarification though …
I know that some of my Starbucks compatriots read my blogs. So let me just state that I’m probably not talking about you. It’s a joy to see you and catch up with you. And if I really need to get work done, I’ve learned to be more direct, just in case my social cues might be overlooked.
So if I haven’t said to you, “Sorry, but I’ve got to get this done” or “I can chat in ten minutes, once I’ve finished this client job” or some such, then don’t worry that you might have missed a social cue.
We’re still pals, right?
Now, if you don’t mind, I really need to finish this post…