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.