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Wednesday July 26, 2006

July 26th, 2006

Our new worker, who shall henceforth be known as JJ, is an excellent worker. She is also an admirable woman. She has had a hard life and yet has risen above it. She is very charitable, and always willing to go the extra mile for those who need her. An inspiration to us all.

As soon as you read something like that, you know that a complaint is coming.

But it isn’t really a complaint. It is more something I have to adjust to. She talks a lot. A lot.

I think of myself as a talkative person. I like conversation. In groups, I have to restrain myself in order not to do more than my fair share of the talking.

But I am not accustomed to talking all the time.

I was thinking about this last night. I was reading and knitting. My husband was watching TV. My boys were playing a game. Conversations erupted now and then, and we would all talk for a bit, and then there would be some minutes of companionable silence before the next bit of talking.

This seems normal to me.

At work, since I work with the public, I have to talk to people. It is a practiced thing. There are people whose conversation I enjoy, and some for whom I just trot out my platitudes that I have learned to say many many times a day. In many cases, people need actual help and I am pleased to provide it, and in others it is just what Friedman calls “friction” — human interaction. I can judge the need for conversation pretty well, and make sure that the interaction lasts as long as it takes for the receipt to print out. This is part of why people come to a store instead of shopping online. It’s part of my job and I enjoy it.

But the rest of the time, I usually don’t have to talk. I might be writing a press release, or doing things with orders at the computer, or preparing a book order, or arranging alluring vistas of science equipment, or reading a new children’s book. In all these cases, I am concentrating on the task, or perhaps thinking about other things — the things I write here, for example.

The Poster Queen and I are likely to have a conversation or two if we are both there, and The Empress and That Man and I usually pass the time of day at some point. But mostly, I can think.

When JJ is there, though, she talks all the time. She has interesting things to say. At first, I did a lot of “Huh?” surprised looking up, because I didn’t realize that she was talking to me. I was working, after all.

But now I am trying to talk more.

This is like when I first moved here from California. I haven’t lived in California for a couple of decades, but I grew up there. When I lived there, you could go buy cat food and the workers might say “Have a nice day” as you left, but you weren’t expected to make conversation. So I would go to get my cat food here and people would talk to me and I would go “Huh?” in a startled way. Then, once I caught on that there would be conversation, it took me a while to get to where I could tell when we were finished. People speak more slowly here, with longer pauses, and the whole idea of talking in the grocery line was foreign, so it took me a while to catch on. There was a stage when I was standing there thinking “are we through yet?” trying to catch the signals that the discussion was finished.

I’m in that stage with JJ. I am capable of talking with her while I put labels on things or rearrange books, and I can even fit in some talk while doing computer work without seriously affecting my productivity. I’m just having to wrack my brain to come up with things to say, and to make an effort to remember to speak. I don’t want to seem unfriendly or make her feel underappreciated.

Of course, she is also very good at talking with the customers. I can kind of palm the really chatty ones off on her.

Thank goodness I get to eat lunch alone.

3 Responses to “Wednesday July 26, 2006”

  1. Kali_Mama says:

    Maybe you could politely say it is difficult for you to concentrate while chatting during certain tasks? And make other tasks or special times for chatting with her.

    Eldest is a talker, too. It overstimulates me. I have to ask him to not talk to me while I drive, for safety reasons.

  2. universehall says:

    I experienced a similar thing when we first moved from California (of course, I was only five at the time) – but it was confusing for me. Whenever we’d go to the little store in my hometown, and went to walk out the door, the lady would shout after us, “‘Come back,” – and I would immediately turn around and go back. And she would look at me with a confused expression. And I would look at her with a confused expression. Later I figured out that “‘Come back” is the Ozark equivalent of “Y’all come back now, y’hear?” – just meaning, “return eventually”. But for a long time, that really confused me.

  3. bbmills says:

    I think I am a JJ. I talk the ears off of my more reticent friends. Most people I’m around are like you, they talk when they have something to say, or just need a little bit of casual conversation. I talk whenever there is any bit of dead air. If there is nothing being said (and even when there is something being said!) I am talking! For the most part, I’m aware that it kinda bugs people, but I can’t help it, that’s just how I am.

    I understand how you feel though, my daughter actually talks more than me, and when I’m driving or doing something that requires concentration, she is still right there just yakity yakking! It can really grate your nerves sometimes. I just have to tell her “Babe, I’m working right now!” and she’ll usually realize that she’s been talking too long and say “Oh, sorry!” and then I get my work done! Your friend probably knows she talks too much and won’t mind if you tell her, “JJ, I want to hear what you’re saying, but I just can’t multitask enough to hear you and do this and since I have to work on this, I’m missing out on what you’re saying! Let me get this stuff done and then we’ll talk.” That may work….or not!

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