Hands up if you hate small talk with strangers?
Ok, hands down.
I used to loathe the small talk with strangers. Now? Not so much. If you HAVE to have small talk with strangers, you may as well make the most of it. You never know where it might take you.
About 12 years ago, Mr Woog had a career change. He went to work as an extreme underling at a fancy financial establishment that had a triple barrelled name. He worked his ring out for the triple barrelled name company, which prided themselves on being very stuck up and fancy. We had just gotten engaged and we had both been invited to their “Christmas Ball” which was so very, very fancy the actual invitation came in the mail on thick white card with swirly gold writing.
It was to be my very first taste of corporate partner duty. There was a cocktail party followed by a dinner dance at a venue near Darling Harbour, at a time when Darling Harbour was considered quite the cool place.
Mr Woog inquired whether I had a formal dress to wear.
Did I have a formal dress? What do you call that hot pink thai silk bridesmaid dress hanging up in my cupboard? Tres formal and extremely hot! Not to mention the epitome of style and taste.
The night rolled around and there we were, standing on a pontoon drinking champagne. Mr Woog was very nervous and I felt like I was really standing out in my big hot pink dress. It seemed that a tasteful little black number was more the range at the time. Anyway, Mr Woog’s Boss and his tastefully-clad-in-a -little- black-dress-wife came over. Mr Woog introduced us and I think I can recall bowing my head at them both.
Like they were royalty.
Then we just sort of stood there for a bit.
Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.
Mr Boss asked me “So what do you do?”
“Oh, I work in publishing.” I told him.
Dog barks….. crickets chirp…..
“So do you enjoy what you do?” His wife questions.
“Oh no. I hate it.” I told her.
Dog barks….. crickets chirp. A baby cries out for it’s mother. A lengthy and awkward silence is broken by me, trying hard to show off how cultured I really was.
“Isn’t it an incredible restoration job that they have done on the Endeavour!” I proclaim “If only those sails could talk…..’
I gazed wistfully gaze at the sails. My wistfulness is broken by Mr Boss who informs me that it was a replica of the Endeavour, not a restoration, and the real Endeavour was believed to be at the bottom of the ocean near America.
I looked at the boat and realised the REAL Endeavour probably did not have NO SMOKING signs all over it. To say I felt like a complete fuckwit was spot on correct. In my quest to become the perfect corporate partner, I had changed myself into this most boringly bland (apart from the dress) nodding and smiling fembot.
Approximately two hours later I was up on the dance floor with one other corporate wife (who was incidentally dressed in a peacock green strapless dress), swigging champers from a bottle while Mr Woog continued on with small talk with the bosses. Come the end of the evening, smelling slightly of vomit and cigarettes, I hugged the boss and his wife and invited them to come to our wedding in the Autumn. I do not think I asked them, I think I more insisted that they come. Really, I was not taking no for an answer.
And you know what? They did!
Years later, Mr Woog left that fancy job and freed up my festive time to attend my own torturous Company Christmas BBQ’s where the snags were burnt and the wine was warm. But these years taught me a lesson. Small talk is boring.
So whenever you find yourself in a situation of awkward banter with strangers, think of a hot pink taffeta bridesmaid dress and stop talking small and start talking big. Oh and champagne always helps. Perhaps just not the whole bottle.