Sorry, Carrie, this picture is so legit it warrants overuse.by Brendan Cavanagh
On those odd weeks where I struggle to come up with a suitable topic to present to the readers of Classic Brian, or when I have myriad topics to choose from, but stress- or college-induced writer's block impedes my ability to articulate exactly what I'm thinking, I have consulted my close friend, Ms. Carrie McMenamin, for aid. Immediately she pummels me with three or four perfectly adequate ideas, but every time I have either failed to come up with a decently-sized post regarding such ideas, disregarded those I found unsuitable or loosely come up with an original idea found by means of subsequent contemplation of her suggestions. However, this week I have had plenty of time to mull over her thoughts and I've come up with enough material to cover some of her more prominent recommendations.
I would like to begin by discussing the maddeningly prevalent issue of small talk. To paraphrase Carrie's father, "Small talk is like currency; the more there is, the less valuable it becomes." In most situations, making blithe conversation without any intention of becoming embroiled in a serious discussion is perfectly acceptable. When you walk down a street downtown and pass a stranger, it is polite to utter a mere "Hello" or "How 'bout this rain?" Likewise, engaging in casual conversation with a colleague in between assigned tasks or shifts at work is quite common. However, in an educational environment in which you have some sort of connection with students you see nearly every day in the hallways, in class or on the campus, small talk is all-too-often used, and used inappropriately at that. Personally, I don't feel if I see a friend more than two or three times a day that I should have to ask, "How are ya?" every time we cross paths, or feel obliged to engage in the "stop-and-chat-" a pointless, minutes-long affair of banal and uninteresting dialogue. Most people feel that when they are in close proximity to a casual acquaintance or class mate, they are forced to ask, "What's uuuuuup?" with no concern for what's really uuuuuup with that person. If they want to have a short discussion about something that involves the both of us, be it in or out of class, it's cool if they stop me and ask for my input. But too often, there's this mutually awkward, unconscious impression that the two of us need to outrageously acknowledge each other's presence. A simple nod or wave, high five or fist pound is appropriate. Here's the irony: I, too, am guilty of making inane small talk with people I know even the slightest because I am awkward and/or forget my principles when thrust into such a situation.