I think of soul-sapping conversation openers like the title here every time I read a news story and see random and pointless grafs like the one below, which was plopped, all steaming and evocative of the barnyard, right in the middle of an article that had seemed fairly legitimate up to that point:
It lit up social media with complaints by travelers like @JoeMFox who tweeted, “I’m starting to consider whether a five-hour drive would get me there faster than United. #ohare”
Besides the fact that pretty much every single thing that more than a few people are aware of lights up antisocial media, this sort of amateurish pander-padding is akin to repeatedly reminding readers that people don’t like inconveniences, as if the readers are a little too thick or forgetful to understand and retain that fact. Soon it might be:
A torrential downpour occurred Tuesday, causing traffic snarls in the downtown area.
@ADingBat fnooted, “Ugh…rain again #lol”, confirming that people who don’t like torrential downpours don’t seem to like torrential downpours.
A Dingleface page called IHateTorrentialDownpours was set up within hours and some people, whose total number means nothing, “Loathed” the page within a randomly selected number of hours ending just before deadline, whose duration also means nothing.
When I’m outside my office on a break from the keyboard, I sometimes overhear snippets of conversations between employees of one of the other companies in the building. It’s most often the same script: some variation of how nice or bad or cold or hot the weather is getting lately or how dark or light it’s getting so early or late. There’s usually a back-and-forth of about four sentences by each party droning flatly on the topic. It’s all I can do to stop myself walking up to them and, one by one, shaking them by the shoulders as I bellow, “Jiminy Cricket on a velocipede, say something interesting to them, fercripesake!”
Instead, I stay put and quiet, minding my own business, wondering how often they have conversations like that with their families.
Random antisocial media inserts such as that O’Hare Airport one also – and more happily – remind me of this:
“I recently moved into a new apartment, and there was this switch on the wall that didn’t do anything. So anytime I had nothing to do, I’d just flick that switch up and down…up and down…up and down. Then one day I got a letter from a woman in Germany. It just said, ‘Cut it out.'”
– Steven Wright