We’ve all been there. Those awkward encounters with members of the public who offer a service to you in some way. Whether it’s a taxi home after drinking yourself to oblivion or forced smalltalk whilst having your hair cut, for a lot of us it is a struggle.
Some may struggle with confidence issues which makes it difficult from the get go, just dreading that forced social interaction with the hairdresser. There are several ways to approach this and for a socially awkward person like myself I start to think of different topics of discussion before the inevitable.
‘So, do you watch football?’ ‘no, not really into it’
‘Ah, seen any films at the cinema recently?’ ‘Not really into any of them, it’s all superhero crap at the moment’
‘So, any holidays coming up?’ ‘Nope’
‘How ’bout Scarlett Johansson ay? She’s pretty fit’ ‘I’m gay’
‘Know any good places round here to visit?’ ‘fuck off’
Safe to say situations like the above do happen pretty often (okay, maybe not the last one). You slowly go through your checklist of ‘go to’ small talk with a barrier in the form of an antisocial bloke with scissors in his hand. Once I managed to find a 2 minute discussion on what nice weather we were having but safe to say that can only last so long. He knows it, I know it, we’re not going to be chums after this so maybe we should both shut up and let him get on with it.
Or should we…
Recently I’ve tried a new tactic and it works really well. I decide to make up a completely different persona each time (which will most definitely backfire). I’ve been called Gareth, had two kids, lived half of my life in Sweden – the usual. The amount of sheer bullshit that leaves my mouth keeps them interested enough to escape the awkward silence.
Yes, I know. I’m a compulsive liar, yet who cares? If I ever have to see this guy again it’s going to be about six weeks away and I’ll have a completely different set of hair, definitely won’t be recognisable. If you’re socially awkward and struggle at these encounters I definitely recommend waffling pure codswallop for forty minutes. Just don’t step too far and talk about all this imaginary money you have, they’ll think you’re a wanker and expect a decent tip.
Then we have the bane of social awkwardness – the lone taxi ride. I shudder just thinking about it. We all know how it goes…
‘So, been busy tonight?’
‘What time did you start/finish’
‘Thought of moving to Uber?’
‘Bet you get some right characters in here’
We all know the clichés , as do the taxi drivers . I recently asked my taxi driver in Altrincham about 2am one Saturday morning all of the above. Then I did the unthinkable – I asked him how often he gets asked these questions. His response was expected; ‘every damn ride’.
Luckily this particular driver had a decent sense of humour and I was able to keep this topic going till journey’s end. We laughed about how self aware everyone in the above scenario is and how at the end of the day, there’s much more to discuss and find out about someone on a car journey. I learnt that he was a Muslim man who had moved to England with his wife and kids about six years ago, naturally I enquired about the religion and what he thinks of the media bias right now regarding Muslims. The gent was happy to oblige and I ended up drunkenly spewing all sorts of nonsense at the man who was so glad to speak to someone about something he cares about that around five minutes had passed after he’d parked up as I sat outside my house and carried on the conversation.
These encounters are as awkward as we make them. Us Brits in particular are known as very reserved with strangers. Sometimes we forget that they’re in the same situation too and it’s possible to brighten up someone’s day whether it be through deep meaningful drunk chats with strangers or general rubbish with the local barber.