As readers of this blog will know, many people have great difficulty ending conversations with acquaintances they run into on the street. After running through all the possible topics of conversation- happenings in our lives, friends we both know, the weather- an uncomfortable silence sinks in. Some people let the silence hang there and then unsuccessfully try to get the conversation started again - myself included. But others, that chosen few, seize the silence as an opportunity to end the interaction on a high note.
It is with this background in mind that I recount my interaction with my middle school gym teacher, Mr. Middleton, at a diner near my school. I was sitting with my friend Sam when we noticed Mr. Middleton. And then, Mr. Middleton wowed me with his skills of ending conversations- he ran through all the topics he felt we had in common, i.e. adolescent basketball - and then he high-tailed out of there. Note that this is the second time an older person has ended a conversation with me because they had better things to do:
Me: Mr. Middleton, I hear you're retiring, congratulations
Mr. Middleton: Hey, uh (recognizing us but not really remembering our names). You boys still playin' ball?
Sam: I play pick-up basketball sometimes
Me: I was actually in a hoops league last fall
Mr. Middleton: That's great, that's great. So I guess all those years of gym ball really paid off.
(very short awkward pause)
Me: So how is--
Mr. Middleton: Well keep on playin', boys.
(Mr. Middleton walks off)