A change of working scenery, if not of employer, has reintroduced me to the devilry that is small-talk. New EFL teachers, nervous before their first ever paid class, are the worst for it; simpering and clucking and cracking awful jokes before they wait to get started. They don't know each other and they think they don't know what's in store for them.
I've lost all tolerance for it as I've gotten older - preferring to say nothing than to talk utter fluff. It's not the fluff that's the problem, mind, it's the scutter that comes out of your mouth for want of something better to say. 90 percent of conversations are nought but fluff, but they do at least tend to be couched in your own terms. On starting a new secondary teaching job a few years back I was small-talking with another new teacher, who told me he was from Newbridge. "You'll be worth your weight in silver to this place, then", was my side-splitting response . Oh yes it was. (Context for non-Irish readers here, should you wish). I still shrivel and die a little inside when I think of that, but that guy's been kind enough never to remind me of that, and he now knows I'm not quite that much of a fucking sack.
It can happen even with people you've known for a good while. A good mate of mine came back from a year's travelling and told irritating, shit-awful jokes for a couple of weeks before he got back to normal. I'm still not sure if he was just feeling a bit nervous and out of place being back home, or if he thought this material had played well among all the back-packers he had encountered - too polite around new people to do anything but chuckle politely. Wedding Table Syndrome, to so very many of us.
But yeah, my stock of patience for it is running perilously thin, given that lifetimes are just packed full of awkward making nice with strangers. "I do this, and I live there and yeah, I've heard there are loads of nice pubs in Clonmel and no, I suppose Simon Cowell probably isn't really like that in person, yeah I've heard the family name but I don't think I've met him - Wicklow's a bigger place than you realise, you know."
Fuck all that, I think I'd rather people just thought I was aloof.
Though there is always the nuclear option of going up to my new colleagues and launching straight into a bawdy anecdote involving casual sex or soft drugs, giving them some unanticipated physical contact and perhaps even dropping in a track or two from the '30 Greatest Paedo Jokes' album that's generally on heavy rotation in my head. It's what they'd end up getting somewhere down the line anyway.