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Red Eye

April 19, 2016

The overnight flights that brought me back to the Midwest ended up being relatively uneventful. Fun fact I am not a fan of flying, with an overactive imagination, a body I am for ever considering securing in bubble wrap, and a stomach that seems to dislike the idea of movement at all, let alone any turbulence I am just happy to make it to my destination without making use of a barf bag.  My second flight did make me question the actual idea of humans flying overall, but that might have had a lot more to do with the tiny airplane and less the actual skills of the pilot. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when we are told that someone needs to move to the back of the plane from the front, because of weight distribution, I tend to get a little more anxious than normal.

Flying also creates a dreaded situation for most introverts. A confined space for a specific time period often leads to small talk among seatmates. Whatever the reason, a person seeks to engage the people around them, I am often doing my level best to avoid eye contact and secure my headphones in place as quickly as possible. I will bust out a book if needed to drive the point home. While you would think all of this makes up the universal signal of, “please don’t talk to me,” you and I would be wrong. My first flight (the longest) was relatively talk free, I did get a few questions from my seat mate, but after a little while they fell asleep and I was granted reprieve. I wasn’t so lucky on my second flight.

I realized fairly quickly in my adult life that I am not interested in small talk. I am willing to humor someone for a little while on a subject, but I find it tedious. I know there are people out there who love to engage with whomever they meet. I also get there are social customs that mean I should at least respond to questions asked and in turn inquire the same about the asker. I don’t like it, but for the sake of keeping the peace I tend to play along for a little while.

Unfortunately as soon as someone, whose name I don’t even know, starts sharing details of their life that are anything beyond the basics I start to feel like an animal trapped in a cage. Yes dear readers, I ended up being seated with an oversharer.

Not only did this person engage me in small talk through most of the flight, but once I finally relented and put my book down, I was treated to way more information than someone would know by a third date (okay I am guessing on this one, I haven’t dated someone new in over nine years.) As I internally cursed my weakened defenses, I was privy to the internal strife of this person and their siblings. I was treated to topics ranging from their opinion about why the housing market in the PNW is so tenuous. Their regrets about not going with their church group to Germany, their reason for not going, they have children in college. And even their flying schedule for this year.

As an introvert, but even as a person just trying to make it home, I can’t help but wonder just what it is it that makes some people open up like that? Is it my face, do I just come across as someone sympathetic (the answers to both of those I thought was no.) Does it even have anything to do with me or would this person word vomit their life story to anyone willing to listen? I would like to think it is just a series of unfortunate events that leads to these encounters, but as they keep happening I can’t help but wonder is it because I am introvert?

Introverts often avoid small talk, which means they tend to be quieter in situations. Does the fact that we are quiet draw people to us? Is it because they think we will listen? Is it simply a case of not talking over them that provides the safety net they need to share all the things? I know I am not a big talker I don’t like to say something unless it contributes to the conversation. Is this silence being interpreted as a sign of consent?

In the end the person over sharing about their life did little to affect me, aside from distracting me from my book and taking up my time. I know I should probably just let it go and forget about it, as I am sure they have already forgotten about me. But at what point does it stop? Are all introverts destined to be repositories for other people’s stories? Do we give consent to conversations when we remain silent? Is there anything we can do about it?

 

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From → Musings, Writing

3 Comments
  1. shellssells permalink

    Yeah, one of the nicest things for me that has come with age (Besides additional invisibility) is my don’t care attitude, especially when it comes to strangers. So you can put those headphones on and COMPLETELY ignore that person, rude or not. And if they cannot quit talking? You can just tell them you are uninterested. It’ll feel uncomfortable at first. Because introverts are so used to feeling like everything is awkward. But, why not make someone else the awkward one for once?!?! (You own your time, you choose how to spend it. That’s a boundary.)

  2. Introvert here too 🙂 I have stopped listening to social customs and asking the same questions which have just been asked of me. Your time is important to you, and you get to choose how you spend it. I mentally justified this by knowing that I am almost certainly not going to meet this person again, so the information really doesn’t matter, and I don’t care, and I have better things to do with my time than fulfill social niceties but no-one has ever been annoyed enough by this to ask why I don’t.

    I guess there is a level of consenting to conversations by our silence, but that doesn’t mean we have to be good listeners. I avoid eye contact like the plague (I don’t know whether this is due to my introvertedness, or something else), which seems to stop most would-be conversationalists. Otherwise, I straight-up ask them to stop having a conversation with me. It seems rude, simply because as a society conversation is expected to happen everywhere, but *no-one* has the right to take your energy if you don’t want them to, and this is the easiest (and politest) way to get them to stop.

    • Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with the idea that our time is valuable too. I don’t know if I would be able to verbally end the conversation, unless there was a ready made one available.

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