For example, the one inside me. Today was almost traumatic. I went to this job fair, right, the “@pgh.cafe” which is a lame name for a job fair which is a lame thing to have, but they had it, so I went.
Attending: about 30 companies that all do the same thing. I don’t care about any of them. They don’t particularly care about me.
Anyway, I started speaking in buzzwords: “I’d love to try something that offers some new opportunities, so that I can make a difference and see my plans in action”; “I’d like to work for a small company because it’s more agile and I won’t get lost in the huge corporate shuffle”; “I don’t have so much experience in those languages, but I’m a fast learner, and I’d be willing to pick up whatever languages you’re using”– and I couldn’t stop! I was thinking “Okay, now I’m going to actually talk like myself, because I don’t really need this job anyway, what can I lose by just being entirely honest?” AND I COULDN’T! I couldn’t force myself to drop all the corporate nicey-nice-speak and tell shit like it really is!
So then I decided to go out and destroy some social conventions. This week at NPP workshop, Gerrit gave us a homework assignment: start a conversation with a stranger and lose. A la fight club, right? So I was going to do just that. I was also going to be a hype man (a la rappers) to a person in a random conversation. Just generally do whatever I felt like. And here’s what happened- I walked through Oakland, and pretty much said nothing. I tried to pick out only the easiest targets- mostly white males about my age, or maybe older. The idea here is to minimize the creepiness. I had a few encounters:
Me: Do you have the time? (I clearly knew the time already)
Guy: Yeah, it’s 5:25
Me: Okay, thanks.
Guy: (pointing to a parking meter prepay station thing) Wonder what these are…
Me: Parking meter stations, I guess.
Guy: I never saw them before.
Me: Yeah, me neither. Just never noticed them, I guess.
Guy: (crosses street)
Me: (hands empty plastic bottle to guy walking past) Here.
Guy: (recoils as if I were pointing a knife at him instead of a bottle… but then pauses and takes it)
Me: (with a rock in my pocket) Hey, what are you listening to?
Guy: Ehh, I’m just cycling through stuff.
Me: (setting up a pun) Well… do you wanna rock?
Guy: (backs away) uhh, no thanks.
Me: Haha, because I’ve got a rock, see?
Guy: (leaves quickly)
Me: (realizes that “do you wanna rock” could probably be interpreted in many ways, most of them probably creepy, and cringes)
Me: Do you have the time?
Guy: It’s 5:40.
And a couple more. The point is, I lose. The other point is, almost everything you can possibly say or do is creepy. The other point is, why was it so hard to initiate conversations with strangers? I mean, it was really hard. Give it a try, maybe, I challenge you. Granted, it’d probably be easier on the CMU campus- less creepy. But still… what’s so hard about it? Why can I only talk in buzzwords? Why can I not just talk to random people?
I have to go do laundry before the security guard locks the room!
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