Today, having Sunday lunch with my kids and their spouses and babies, we were all together in the den, laughing and telling stories. Jeff started to tell a story we had all heard before, and I pantomimed the opening of a file drawer. It's an inside joke that Jeff and I share. Years ago I told my family that when I am around some people -- who, like me, don't remember that they have bored the same people over and over with some story from their past -- I mentally go to a place where I envision this scenario.....
I'm having a conversation with someone and say something...anything...anything at all...a single word, like, uh, 'spiders', and suddenly, it's like I can almost hear the other person (we'll call him or her 'the bore'), open one of those old metal file cabinet drawers, that screeches and scrapes as it slides out. I mentally see that person (the bore), lean over and search intently through a mental 'S' drawer, where he or she pulls out a heavily soiled, 2 inch thick manila folder, full of spider stories, whereupon he or she begins regaling me with every spider story in his or her mental manila folder of memories.
Okay, stop! This is getting awkward: I'm going to say this bore is a guy, so I can stop with the nonsense of saying 'he or she' all the time. Non-specificity about gender leaves one with the 'he or she' label, which one often uses to avoid saying 'their' which denotes more than one person, and makes the one telling the story look grammatically challenged -- mixing singular and plural pronouns. So there -- it's a guy...'he'. Now, back to the story...
After being exhausted as the victim of countless 'spider' stories, I try to make my get-away, and say I need to leave....and say something like: 'Sorry, but I have to run now...I've got to go...(where? think of something fast!..before another file cabinet drawer is yanked open!!)...I've got to go get my 'oil' changed'. As I glance at my watch, with the look of contrived urgency of one trying to escape, the 'bore' reaches for the 'O' drawer (where 'oil' change stories sit, in their well-worn massive file folder). Oh no! Not to be ensnared again, I start walking backwards -- hurriedly reaching for my keys and hauling the mail to my truck.
Safely inside my truck, I drive away -- so thankful to be out of the clutches of the bore.
I know that I am as guilty as anyone else of being 'that guy' or 'that lady'....the one that people run from because they don't want to become engaged in conversation with a person who does the 'file cabinet routine' with everyone who stands still in their presence for more than a moment.
Our family now has a new rule -- one that we adopted just today: When any of us even looks like 'he or she' is about to reach for the mental file cabinet drawer at one of our 'Shoemake Sunday' get-togethers, the rest of us will automatically pantomime the opening of a heavy file cabinet drawer while the offending person is looking at us. With these gentle reminders, and some grins and laughs, we're hoping that we can all become better, more courteous conversationalists. Good idea...don't you think?