“Hi,” you say and immediately a word document in my brain pops open and I start mentally typing up everything – Chapter 1.
Your smile is nice and kind and if I concentrate really hard, it begins to remind me of the time my mother had thoughtfully brought me a tub of ice-cream to cheer me up as I lay in bed, my 8 year old body riddled with chicken pox. I quickly scan my brain for a good response to you but it doesn’t budge from this inner monologue that’s about to burst through my stream of consciousness. It’s like the time I was at a protest demanding higher wages for university teachers when this journalist walked up to me and asked why I was there. I wanted to tell her exactly why I was there. The long term reasons and the short term. The long term reasons were that my mom used to be a teacher and I genuinely have respect for the profession for many reasons beyond the fact that I don’t see myself possessing any of the necessary qualities that would qualify me as a teacher. I mean, I have zero patience and interest in the future of a child that wasn’t my own. I had no greatness in me that could be bottled up and supplied to future generations that look for inspiration. I could never rise above anything beyond myself so I thought teachers deserved not only higher wages but truly competitive salaries for being so selfless and brave.
The short term reason was that the cause was a lot closer to my friend’s heart and she had offered to buy me a cappuccino with 6 sugars if I came along with her.
So I stood there flabbergasted and at a loss for which words to use. Which of the barrage of thoughts to pick out and hand over to this journalist so she could have a quote for her blog/article, till my friend came over, took pity on me and suggested to her that I was a student. That’s all she wanted to know. If I was a student or a TA. The lady left satisfied with the response, pleased with a statistic to report. But not before I went scarlet in the face at realizing the obviousness of the response.
This happened to me over two years ago and I still remember it. Just like I’m going to remember this. Just like I tend to remember all such interactions with everyone on a daily basis to the point where my head feels full and I can visualize steam coming out of my ears from being overworked like in Tom & Jerry cartoons. Still, I’m determined to make this a successful interaction with you because your smile is nice and kind and your voice is reassuring. I myself am very conscious about the way I sound. My voice sits in the middle of “I want to sound like this” and “I wouldn’t mind sounding like this either” so I’m almost always unhappy with it. Maybe if I smoked less – who knows, it’s probably genetic though. But while I’m coming up with a reply for you (I know it’s “hi” but let me get back to you, I can do better,) I notice your tee and it has Sponge Bob Square-pants on it. I feel this instant and unreasonable connection to you, and I’m reminded rather unpleasantly that first impressions are important. So I look down at my attire and wonder, do you feel an instant connection to ME? Not in a way that would inspire a Dharma Productions movie trailer but in a way that makes you comfortable with me in THAT MOMENT, even though you and I would both forget this (I may not.)
I really hope you ARE comfortable. And if not, I hope this smile helps. Here. I’m smiling. I hope it conveys my warm nature instead of the awkward turmoil within me at the very thought of such impromptu conversations. I hope I seem like I’m on top of things, just killing it in every aspect of my life. I especially hope there’s no leftover lettuce from the sandwich I just ordered tucked between my teeth; because I sure can feel it there so please look away now.
“Would you like whipped cream on top of your hot chocolate?” you ask.
Chapter 2 begins.
You chatty Kathy.