We’re talking about talking to people who are strangers or those who we hardly know this week. Iris started my thoughts out by talking about talking about the weather. People always used to say that it was a ‘safe’ subject,(as opposed to religion and politics), but not here where I live it isn’t.
Imagine my shock when entering a store, or even church, and someone would say something like: ” It looks bad; I think it’s going to rain “, to which I would reply,(even though I usually don’t mind rain),”Yes,it looks bad” , and then have them snap back at me: “Well, WE NEED THE RAIN!” Or “Oooooh, that wind is so cold!”, to which I might reply, “Yes, it IS cold” and they would slice me colder than the wind with,” What do you expect? It IS WINTER!” Even if they started out saying that they were worried about snow or ice accumulations on the street and I concurred, I’d get ” You can’t stop it; It’s going to come anyway!” It is very hard to answer most of the ‘locals’ benignly when it comes to the weather. It got to the point where I started avoiding eye contact until or unless I had a topic with which to begin a conversation….I usually still do, unless I’m sure they are fellow “Brought-Ins”.
But try as I might, there is one group from just over the border of a neighboring state that simply will not speak to me, or to anyone, if they don’t want to. I am not kidding…they will not only not start a conversation, they will not speak when spoken to. They will look you right in the face, deadpan, and utter not one answer, not one word. It is spooky. I was warned that the people from there were not apt to speak to people they don’t know. I was told this before I even came here by people from that place, (who had apparently escaped), and by people who had tried to live in that place, (and escaped).
I mean, seriously? Not at all? Yep. When I moved here they had one of these women working the bookmobile, for Heaven’s sake. My kids and I could not get responses, not only about books, but hours and policy and only when we did something wrong and tried to correct it, (and screwed it up trying to re-do it ourselves), I begged for an answer until she begrudgingly told us what we needed to do. It got to the point where, after much aggravation, I said to her, “I bet you are from *******, aren’t you?” and I have done it to others. That will usually get their mouths opened, for at least a few syllables, but not always. Sometimes it is it ‘answered ‘ with a continuing blank stare.
“Brought-Ins ” seem to be drawn to me and start talking when we’re at stores in lines, the library or some-such place,(there’s not much shakin’ here). We laugh at our mutual tales of adjustment. There is also a one-ups-man-ship that goes on between us as to who survived here for the longer time, and we tell our tales to newcomers, who have it easy now that big-box stores and chain restaurants are here and many of the farms,(they were tobacco farms), are now subdivisions . The younger generations of locals have grown up in a ‘global’ world and are more comfortable with us..Thank Heaven.
Brought-Ins or not ,(Micki will get a kick out of this), people who don’t know me, even people in grocery stores out-of-town ,will stop and ask me for advice on food or cooking.(Yes, I do go to different grocery stores or specialty shops I go out-of-town). It always surprises me and whoever is with me. I don’t need to be in the area where the food being discussed is, either.I was once approached by an unknown young woman who asked me about cooking a certain fresh vegetable, which was 17 aisles away…we were in the dog food aisle. Maybe I give off ‘Foodie” vibes,or maybe I smell like food;either way, I’m always glad to help.
And to round this off I would like to tell you of a chance conversation I had with a strange woman when we were alone in a church in 1976 . It lead me to an introduction to her son, but, you’ll have to excuse me, I don’t have the time right now; I need to go make his lunch.