‘So how was your weekend in Amsterdam?’ asked a colleague over a slice of brown toasted batch bread, in the staff canteen this morning.
‘Oh it was great. Really good to be back I went to visit some friends and …’ I replied before being cut off.
‘I was in Amsterdam once two years ago – I had no wish to go there as it sounded sleazy and druggy with the pot and prossies. I was very surprised by how pretty it is. I went with my Mum – and she’s superfit – as am I – so we did a guided walking tour,’ interjected another colleague.
Rude. I thought to myself. I’ll just stay quiet then.
‘And how was the weather?’ continued my first interlocutor.
Ah the weather – that age old, eternally reliable conversation killer.
As a starter I can just about tolerate it. If it leads to other topics of interest. If I am in mid chat however, and I find myself tempted to comment on the sun, rain, hail, sleet, snow, clouds, frost then I know that it is time to end the conversation and move on. If someone else mentions the elements to me, then I’ll try to make my excuses and leave.
I am fairly useless at small talk in most circumstances, but when conversation plunges to a level of banality where the chill in the air is the topic then I know that I need to get out of that situation as fast as my stubby little legs can carry me. .
Obvious exceptions exist – if you are a fisherman afloat, in a storm at sea, then the inclement weather, and how to survive it may be an appropriate topic of chat with your crewmates.
I decided to bite the bullet this morning though.
‘It was quite chilly at night – especially the night I spent on the houseboat,’ I replied. Mentioning the houseboat was an easy ‘get out of jail free card’. A useful diversion from the horror of weather talk.
And it was.
The second colleague decided that my dribbly little tale of boat dwelling, was clearly not worthy of attention this breakfast time. She needed to vent over her boiled egg.
‘On that weekend in Amsterdam, me and my Mum did the Amsterdam canal boat tour. It was really interesting. And they do it in five languages – I couldn’t believe it. And you are indoors, out of the rain [MURPHY : oh shit – that’s weather talk. Abort conversation immediately]; it was amazing. It’s great that I plan ahead so far in advance as I like to keep my days busy.’
‘OK’ says I.
Right now, didn’t seem like the time or the place to mention that there is a different company offering a similar boat tour on virtually every major canal. And that her painstaking research about how to fill your days while on a weekend away in Amsterdam, was really quite unnecessary.
‘And did you go to any “coffee-shops” while you were there?’ asked the first colleague.
‘Oh no of course not, that’s not really my scene at all now, chortle, chortle.’
This is not strictly true perhaps, but I am in Ireland now, and I am at work. There’s no place on earth with twitchier curtains. Best to just lie.
Colleague number two absolutely had to tell us about her vast experience of Amsterdam’s notorious drugs’ underworld.
‘On that weekend I was there,. my mum and I passed a coffee-shop. She saw the sign and asked if we could stop for a break. I had to explain to her what this coffee-shop sold, and pointed out the smell. It was just SOOOO mad’.
‘Wow’ I muttered. And I placed my porridge bowl on the tray and returned to my desk.
Rude people are difficult to endure. But when that rudeness is coupled with being boring to a breath-taking degree, then it is a combination of the most toxic kind.