Tonight, I had a choice. Study for midterms or write a long, random, rambling blog post. I am pretty sure from the presence of this post that you can infer all the good life decisions I am making right now. Good prioritizing… Also, I don’t know how people can do work all day from 8 or 9 to 6 or 7 and then come home and study more. I studied some in lab today during incubations and stuff so I am going to tell myself that counted instead. Anyway, grad school is all curved, right? So I just have to hope everyone else isn’t studying either…
Small talk may not be my thing, usually. It often involves talking to strangers, which is difficult. And frequently it isn’t about all that interesting of stuff, once you get past the formulaic exchanges of general information and questions.
Except it does include talking about the weather, often. And boy, can I talk about the weather. I love talking about the weather. I can compare different weather patterns. Discuss different climates (and I’ve been hopping around universities the last four or five years, so most people have been a couple of places, so they have got things to share.) And also on how amazing lightning is. BECAUSE IT IS LIKE MAGIC NATURAL FIREWORKS. After a while, though, most people seem to get tired of discussing the weather, and the conversation will sometimes die off.
So I thought I would come up with a list of the other things that I can talk your ear off EASILY about, even if you are a stranger.
Animals. Especially farm animals. I have an unusually large knowledge of agricultural practices and different breeds of animals used for various things. Do I know all the breeds of goats in the American Dairy Goat Association? Why yes I do (admittedly, there are not that many.) (And I have strong opinions on the different breeds, too.) I used to have my Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds memorized. Chickens, too. I love talking about chickens. I gave a speech on them once for my high school speech class. It was the only speech I was not traumatized by. I think it probably helped that I have had boatloads of pets throughout the years.
These are my goat’s first batch of babies. Aren’t they cute? They were NOT eaten because these are NOT meat animals. They are dairy goats/pets and we love them all. I miss having animals.
This is an ok conversational topic. People like talking about their pets. They are usually interested in the fact that I have goats and chickens. They do not like the part of the conversation where I get into the meat part, which is why I try to avoid mentioning we had pigs and sheep, at one point, because then I tend to get into my meat-animal-explanation, which leads to interesting places.
Like this pig dressed up for a costume contest. (AKA this pig that we dressed up for a costume contest. In this case, we means my sister, admittedly. She always had much better ideas for things like this. Although, I generally had better methods for getting it to stay on the pig.)
Although, I am not talking about dressing up pigs like bikers/punk rockers/I don’t really exactly remember what my sister was going for here, I must admit. I am talking about the whole “where does food come from” especially meat thing, which can make people uncomfortable.
And then a special subset of my animal/agricultural discussion topics is prion diseases. I can talk for a VERY long time on prion diseases. Prions are so cool! I almost won our Knowledge Bowl at the county fair with my explanation of scrapies and prion diseases (they didn’t give us a time limit… they got to hear a lovely, 10-minute-plus-explanation on the science behind prion diseases and different research mechanisms and the Scrapies ID program and different molecular theories behind prions and the effect it has had on agriculture and even more… I think they may have rethought the wisdom of giving me a microphone.) (Scrapies is basically the sheep/goat version of Mad Cow Disease, btw.)
People are seldom interested in hearing about scrapies, though. And the people who are, have usually heard all of my information on it already.
Water rights. I know a lot about water rights and water regulations and drought management and irrigation to cities that don’t have their own proper local water source suitable for the number of people that live there (AKA the Southwest/Southern California).
I treated one fellow grad student to a very long monologue on this during orientation week, and he was very nice about it and acted interested and even asked questions. And maybe he even found it interesting, because people here seem to be interested in everything, which is awesome.
I also like to talk about droughts and weather patterns and water usage in different parts of the country.
Cheese. I really like cheese. I really like to eat it. I really like to talk about it. I like to discuss different types of cheese and different types of food that you can put cheese on. My friends in undergrad talked about cheese a lot, too, so it seemed like a normal thing. But maybe not.
But actually, it is probably more food in general. I like to list food that I like to eat. And things that I like to bake.
Stories. I have lots of stories that I like to retell. Most of them aren’t my stories. They are family stories. I like to tell people how my grandparents met, how my parents met. About my mom and the quicksand. We have a lot of random stories that can come up surprisingly frequently in early-meeting-people conversation. I also have stories I’ve heard from my friends or stories boyfriend has told me and even sometimes one or two things that I’ve seen.
I have a set of stories. I don’t like to come up with new ones. I like to reuse the ones I have. They can usually be applicable, at least one.
Problems with this: I don’t remember who I have already told the story to. I also don’t always remember who the story came from. So sometimes I end up telling people stories that they told me. My friends are just amused by this, but more casual acquaintances might get upset. Also, people might not really be interested in hearing all my family history (but we have exciting stories! there’s a bank robber in there! people blow things up! someone gets stuck in quicksand!)
Dr. Seuss. I like to quote Dr. Seuss a lot. I tend to try to avoid this in small talk conversations, though because it can get weird really quickly.
Grocery shopping. I do this a lot, recently I have found. Where I start describing my grocery store routines to people. And figure out how they grocery shop. And compare grocery stores and grocery store techniques.
Or talk about different grocery store names. It’s so strange how they have such different names in different regions of the country. I’m used to Ralph’s and Vons and then all of a sudden I’m in the Midwest and I don’t even know what half of the stores people go to are called, they are just throwing out random words and how can I even tell if they are going to a store? But that amuses me, too. So I do like to discuss that.
Anyway, that’s a little random rambling from me for today.
P.S. I gave boyfriend a tour of the area I lived in, and basically it was me pointing out the bookstores and the houses that had pretty dogs. Because those were the landmarks I thought were important. (I’ve always learned the names of all the dogs I’ve walked past regularly, even if I’ve never even met their people. Over time, you tend to hear the people calling the name of the dog. And then you know.)