the words of tim walker

adventures in small talk: episode 1


there are a few things missing from my dna strand. in addition to an absence of athletic ability—which somehow got passed from my father to my brother, and skipped me—i also lack a small talk gene.

i have the complete ability to shut down a conversation and lead it to a dead-end on the verge of a great abyss.

here’s an example of a frequent scenario.

“how you are you?”

“good. i’m bob.” (names have been changed to protect the less socially awkward.)

“hey, bob, i’m tim.” (my name hasn’t been changed, well because there’s no hiding the social awkwardness.)

“it’s hot today.”

“yeah, it sure is. i think it’s going to be a hot summer.” (this is a standard line for me. i live in the South. it very rarely doesn’t apply.)


“nice day.”

“uh, yeah.”

“it sure is hot.”

bob lowers his head to focus on the grill.

“thanks for having us over.”

“sure. vanessa has been saying we need to have you all over since the kids enjoy playing together.”

“well we appreciate it.” i shift my eyes. trying to find something to talk about. no, don’t talk about how rich he must be to have such a nice house, or why no one in his family seems to have any body fat. or how the brownies we brought pale in comparison to the plethora of pinterest-inspired foods on the table. focus, tim, focus. “your backyard is amazing.”

“yeah, i built that retaining wall myself. and the firepit. and my brother and i installed the pool.”

“it’s really great.” i can’t figure out how to replace that gutter screw on my gutter on the second floor of my house. (aside from your mild admiration that i do know the name of “gutter screw,” it’s kind of pitiful that i can’t screw one into the trim with an electric screwdriver.)

“so how about that braves game last night?”

oh, dang. i forgot to watch espn sportscenter with my kids. i was making the brownies.

“uh, i missed it.”

“we were there and it was great. at one point . . .” at this point it takes everything with me to follow any words the man utters. my complete apathy for sports takes over and i struggle to listen. finally i give up, just nod every once in a while and say “yeah” at the end.

at this point i realize that i have exhausted every possible topic. unless the man wants to talk about Duck Dynasty, Once Upon a Time, the latest issue of Justice League, church culture or summer movie blockbusters, i’ve got nothing.

and nine times out of ten, i have nothing.

finally an opening. bob asks, “can you get me a plate from the kitchen to put these burgers on?”

“sure.” i eagerly walk to the kitchen, get the plate, then come back to my place at the grill, this time in my new role as grill assistant, not conversationalist.

yep, it’s a pretty magical experience.

no small talk gene.


and suddenly even this post is becoming a little awkward.

i think i’ll go now.


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