Small Talk with A Bear

Fun with Small Talk, by Carisa Miller

I had a recurring childhood nightmare that was set in my actual home, which made it oh-so-much worse. In the dream, I stepped out onto the front porch to collect the evening newspaper and to the right, beyond the house, was a behemoth grizzly bear, barreling toward me through the filbert orchard. At first he was a hundred feet away, which allowed me plenty of time to take the few steps back inside and bolt the door, even while dragging my suddenly sandbag body in heavy slow-motion. But each time the dream repeated, the bear started closer to me, and my escape grew narrower until the night he was waiting for me on the other side of the door.

One of my most terrifying recurring adulthood nightmares is also set in my actual home, and happens when I'm awake. I step onto the porch to get the mail and spot a neighbor pulling into their driveway/mowing their lawn/taking out their garbage/walking their dog. Yes, for me the dread of being forced to make small talk is comparable to the fear I had as a child, of stepping onto the porch to collect the paper and being slashed open by a bear.

You should see how fast I run back into the house.

I’ve seen articles that offers tips on how to see the value in making an effort with small talk and others that put a spin on the standard chit-chat to spark up something a bit more meaningful.

I’d like to turn small talk around on people in a way that makes them feel as uncomfortable as I do. Maybe then they’ll think twice about making conversation with me at all, and isn’t that the goal here?

It’s time to have some fun with small talk. And as a proper first step to any kind of fun, I’ve made a list.


Fellow wet bus rider at transit stop: “Had enough of this rain?”

Me: “I need to poop.”


Perky mom at school pick-up: “What did you get up to this weekend?”

Me: “Ritual sacrifice.”


Co-worker: “Wasn’t traffic awful this morning? How was your commute? Which way do you take to get here?”

Me: “Will you excuse me? I think my tampon is in crooked.”


Classmate: “Did you watch [name of a reality TV show] last night?”

Me: *gasping, clutching at person* “Can’t...breathe.”


Stranger at party: “So what do you do?”

Me: “I’m so glad you asked. Let’s see, where to begin? I breathe, and blink, and walk, and talk, and sleep, and think, and eat, and... ”


Woman in line at grocery store: “Oh, so sweet, how old is your baby?”

Me: “What baby? You see a baby? Where? ”


Neighbor: “Are you going to watch the big [name of a sport] game?”

Me: *running in circles, arms flailing* “Killer bees! Run for your life!”


This is a good start. Feel free to sing along, fellow introverts, and let ridiculousness be your salvation.