March 23, 2011

one topic guy [categories of awkward]

I first noticed this category of awkward in the seventh grade.
It's the guy who only knows how to talk to you about one thing. The one topic guy.

I give you exhibit A: James.

A seventh grader named James. For the entirety of the time we were in school together, which was like 6 years, I'd say we talked a fair amount. But we rarely [try never] deviated from the subject of Latin homework.

I feel like it's not a stretch to say that we could have been involved in some kind of gas station hold up together over the weekend and Monday morning he would still walk by my locker and ask me if we had any Latin homework. Or if I had done the Latin homework. Or if I could believe we had so much Latin homework. Or if I thought the Latin homework was hard. Sometimes I think he would just say, "Latin homework," chuckle to himself, and continue his trek to Ms. Kehoe's class to get new conversation ammo for our next encounter.

There have been others since high school, and I have continually been blown away by their consistency and persistence in talking to me about only one thing. A guy I work with switches topics every few weeks, but for those few weeks he is unrelenting. [I see what you're doing, guy. Switch all you want, but I know who you are under this facade.] Maybe the first time I met you we had a conversation about how I love jukeboxes, and now my love for the jukebox has stuck with you as my only definitive characteristic. Maybe once it rained when we were together and so now the go-to convo starter is always, "HEY! Been in any rainstorms lately?!" So very clever, friend. Now let's dance around the topic of rain for 3-7 minutes until one of us can come up with a reason we have to leave.

The issue is super prevalent among dads of kids I nanny for. They are maybe the most awkward demographic of people I have ever come into contact with in my entire life. Once in college I was babysitting and the dad got home before the mom [which I think, to be fair, he wasn't expecting]. He fumbled for his wallet, shoved some money in my hand, barked a quick "BYE" and abruptly left the room. I skedaddle out of the house so as not to drown in my discomfort, walk outside, and realize that he has no idea how long I've been there or how much I get paid, and he has just paid me about $40/hour. I mean I'm not complaining, that's for sure, but when your awkwardness is costing you actual money, I think it may be time to assess it as a legitimate issue.

There is also the kind of dad who talks to you EXCLUSIVELY about his child. That's it. We will broach no other topics. Try to divert the convo and watch him squirm as he tries to bring it back around to the kid. Then there is the kind who, like Latin homework guy, will pick one or two topics [weather & traffic, almost always] and run with them until the end of time. Which gets really awkward if you nanny for them a lot. There is only so much that can be said about the traffic on I-25, you know? I'm not sure how we manage to talk about it three times a week.

But really, you just have to love one topic guy. They're making an effort, they're just sort of debilitated by their awkward ways. I recognize now that James just wanted to talk to me in the hallway, so what if he couldn't think of anything thrilling to say when he walked by? And if we on the receiving end are equally persistent, I have hope that maybe one fine day we can break the chains of the one topic and talk about something crazy. Like, I don't know, the traffic on I-70. Or biology homework. Or other kinds of storms. Who knows what scintillating conversation lies ahead.

There are very few constants in this world, so in the meantime I will find comfort in the stability of this dependably awkward demographic. They are almost as consistent as that Bruno Mars song, Grenade. I don't listen to the radio very often, but I swear that song plays perpetually. I think it ends on one station and auto-starts on another. Anyway, constants are great.

That's not one, but TWO constants in a world of crazy. You're welcome. We can all rest easy tonight.

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