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National Editorials & Columns

Belittling small talk

I think I had about 15 people ask me today how my day was going.

Now, I realize that most of these people are just being polite. Making small talk. But 15 in one day?

I know I’m not the most happy-go-lucky guy in the world. But do I look so distraught that everyone I see feels compelled to ask me how my day is going? Is there something sticking out of my head that evokes empathy?

I’ve always been a frowner. It’s not that I’m unhappy; smiling makes my mouth hurt.

I was voted “most serious boy” in my eighth grade class, so I know it’s always been this way. By the way, I was also voted “best legs,” so you have to look at the total picture.

I had competition on the leg vote, but the serious tag was a no-brainer. It would have been unanimous if I had voted for myself.

Anyway, my day was fine, thank you. I was able to get some priority work done until minutia stepped in and took over. By minutia, I mean other people’s priority work.

I’m not a good person to engage in small talk because, as a serious guy, I tend to think people actually care about the answers to the questions they ask. Then, when I notice them glancing around the room and checking their watches, I feel a bit suckered.

I was drawn into a meaningless conversation. But I guess the joke is on them.

If I notice that I’ve exceeded my socially acceptable time limit – and that’s a big “if” – I will find a way to bow out gracefully. But for future reference, if you ask me how my day is going, it would be beneficial to both of us if you end your query with “not that I really care.”

Well, I can sense that you’re glancing around the room now. My, would you look at the time. See you next week.

• David Porter can be reached at

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