Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Art of Conversation Gets an "F" - and Dodgy Geezers

Is it just me, or does anyone else have the habit of continuing a conversation even when it really isn't practical to?

I have realised that recently I have done this on two separate occasions. Today, I was loading an order for dispatch on to a lorry. I was on the Forklift, and the lorry driver was very kindly on the bed of his vehicle with a set of pallet trucks, so he could move the pallets into position after I fork them on to the trailer - this saves a great deal of time, as my dexterity with a forklift can leave a lot to be desired.
The lorry driver was a nice friendly chap - as am I - so a conversation soon began.

All was fine, until I started fetching the pallets with the Forklift. Our Forklift is very old, and very noisy - and on top of this, the floor of our yard at work is not totally even so the Forklift bangs and rattles as it drives over the uneven ground. So the lorry driver was merrily chatting away, and I was doing my best to fulfill my part of the conversation. It was becoming more and more difficult - at one point the driver said to me something like, "I'll put one more on this side, and then you can load the last four - that will be faster." Now I didn't hear those words that clearly - it was only the fact that the driver was gesturing whilst talking, and I was trying to lip read that I got the gist of what he meant. If he had not been gesturing, and if I was just looking at him and not lip reading I could quite possibly have interpreted what he actually said as "I punch one mouse this Sunday, and then you can loan the least fog - they will be French"
Now that was a near miss - but soon afterwards the driver said something to me that I have no idea what is was. And so I did what all of us do when someone says something that we don't hear, but we don't want the embarrassment of asking them to repeat it - I said "yeah", and gave a little laugh.
For all I know, the driver might have said "Can I gut you from head to toe, peel your skin off, and wear it as a dress?" And I just gave a laugh and replied "yeah".
And the moment I answered blindly, I momentarily wondered if I had just made myself look like a complete idiot. I was driving away from the lorry, but glanced quickly back just to check to see if the lorry driver was stood there with a puzzled look on his face. To my relief, he wasn't.

But why do we do that? Is it an English thing? Is it because we are so polite, that we don't want to offend someone by asking them to repeat themselves , because we couldn't hear them properly? Are we subconsciously embarrassed by our faulty hearing (in spite of the fact that all sound was drowned out at the crucial moment by a passing motorbike, or a pneumatic drill etc. we feel that it is our hearing that is a fault), and therefore try to paper over our flagrant rudeness by gambling on a answer that might not be right?
Or is it a man thing? When men have conversations, they don't show weakness by admitting that they didn't hear what was said - that sort of thing is done by Women and weak elderly folk. Us men hear all, and know all (which is why we never ask for directions). And if we don't hear all, we try and blag our way out it. That is the man's way.

I think also, that part of it may be that generally any conversation you are having in a location where the possibility of noise pollution interfering with the reception is likely, then that conversation isn't that important, and any information missed won't be that vital. Important conversations always take place somewhere quiet, so that nothing is missed. You wouldn't get the doctor to tell you the results of that Biopsy at an Iron Maiden Concert, and you wouldn't conduct a job interview on the flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier. So perhaps the reason we don't say "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that - could you say it again?" is because we not that concerned with the conversation anyway.

The second instance of an impractical conversation happened earlier in the week. I was walking down the street on my way back to work, when I saw someone I knew walking towards me. Now this is important: This person I know is a friend - but not a close friend to warrant stopping in the street to exchange pleasantries with. You know what I mean; there are three types of Friends: Very good friends who you will go out of your way to approach and talk to. People you would cross the road to go up and say hi to. Those are your very good friends.
Then, there are the good friends - people you will stop in the street to talk to, if you bump into them. But if you saw them across the street and they didn't see you, you wouldn't cross over to talk to them. The best you would probably do is shout their name and raise a hand to them.
The third type of friend is the friend you know but not that well - maybe a friend of a friend. These types of friends you exchange greetings as you pass on the street - you don't even slow down, and you would only stop if they do (and even then you might not, saying "sorry, I'm a terrible rush"), but you certainly wouldn't cross the road to speak to them or even call their name if you saw them and they didn't see you.

Me: "Hello mate, alright?"
Friend: " Hello Larry, I'm good thanks. You?"
Me: "Good good. Yeah, I'm alright"
Friend: "Good good. Work busy?"
Me: "Yeah, bits and pieces"
Friend "Good. See you later!
Me: "Yeah, see you later!

All in all, that conversation took about ten seconds. However all that time we continued moving in our own direction. The first part of the conversation took place when we were about four foot apart. The middle portion of the conversation (the 'small talk') took place as we drew level, and then passed one another, and carried on. And the end of the conversation finished when we were about twenty feet apart. And the volume increased also - starting normally, but ending in almost a shout. We didn't look back at each other when we said goodbye, and we never broke stride.

Which meant that I nearly frightened to death the old lady I was catching up with, when I shouted "Yeah, see you later!" right behind her.

These sort of conversations should really be limited to a nod and a smile, because what happens if you end up having a longer conversation but both keep carrying on walking? Will you end up hollering at each other from opposite ends of the street? Probably.

I had a couple of dodgy blokes knock on my door tonight, asking if a Cheque had been posted through my door for a Miss K Rose. I said no, the only mail I had today was a gas bill. The talkative bloke then asked if I had received a cheque yesterday. I said no (again) - what did he expect? did he think I might say "Oh yeah, a cheque for Miss K. Rose did come in the post yesterday - but I can't give it to you, that's was yesterday's post. Today is today."
They were either con men, or were checking the place out with a view to rob it. If they do try to rob it, I will defend my home to the best of my ability.

Unless I'm out.

But they were definitely dodgy. Very very dodgy.

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