Thursday, July 13, 2017

Close Encounters with a Close-Talker

It was already ninety degrees—with the heat index approaching one hundred—at ten o’clock this morning. Scorcher of a day or not, I, just like the postman, had to make my appointed rounds. In fact, I was headed to a post office, but not the one closest to me. This trivial tidbit of information would be of monumental interest to a man I bumped into en route.

On a stifling hot and humid morn, the last thing I wanted was an encounter with a close-talker—a person who gets in your face during ordinary conversation. (Seinfeld brought the close-talker phenomenon to light in “The Raincoats” episode.) To compound my misfortune, I not only found myself chatting with a close-talker, but one with halitosis as well. I should mention that he is likewise a long-talker. The man in question is fond of holding court and supplying listeners with lengthy back stories—laborious minutia—to events with punchlines that aren’t all that interesting. My close-talker has a habit, too, of punctuating his conversations with the word “anyway.” It’s his way of alerting you: “Are you ready for the big finish?” Fashion your seat belts, there is always another “anyway” and another one after that.

Anyway, this close-talker ambushed me as I walked past his building earlier this morning. He informed me that a friend of his was supposed to pick him up at 9:30. But it was closer to 10:30 when we met. He’s a man in his seventies and not a cell phone user, so he might still be waiting there now. Maybe he got the day wrong. Don’t get me wrong: The close-talker is a well-meaning fellow. He’s been a friend of the family—of an aunt actually—since the dawn of time. However, he can be a very irritating individual, especially when you meet him in a chance encounter. I feel obligated to talk with him when fate intervenes. But I believe that I have earned the right to avoid him if I can. Typically, I reconnoiter while in his neck of the woods and, if I see him coming, take the necessary steps—sometimes retreating entirely or even walking into traffic—to make a clean getaway. 

The close-talker and I chatted for a while. He was absolutely fascinated that I walked to the tiny post office several blocks from his building entrance, when a larger facility was nearer my front door. I explained to him the simple reason: There’s usually no waiting in the little post office during the morning hours, while the bigger place is invariably a zoo. Although I can’t explain why, my reasoning was of supreme interest to the close-talker. He, nevertheless, did most of the talking. As I kept backing away from his too-close-for-comfort-conversing, we physically moved in something of a large circle—like Earth’s revolution around the Sun, only in a smaller space and shorter time frame. Everything you wanted to know about Type 2 diabetes but were afraid to ask. Well, I learned it today from the close-talker, who has been diagnosed with it.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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