Back when I was attending the local university, there was a semester where I had about 40 minutes between one class and another. I would generally plop down in the outdoor patio area outside the little food shop and bookstore to either to do some reading for classes or work on papers or whatnot. It never failed that at some point, someone would join me at the table where I was sitting, greet me, and, after I replied, would start talking. They would talk about themselves, and not just relative to the university and classes they happened to be taking, but personal things: surgeries they’ve had, jobs they hold, their kids and partners and parents, where they were from if not from Florida, or if they were, what city/town they were from, broad strokes about their homes and the people in their towns, and virtually any other topic that came to mind.
This is not isolated; I’ve had the same experience in other places as well. I don’t ask them anything about themselves when they sit/stand with me or say “Hi, how are you, why don’t you tell me every single thing you can about yourself in the x minutes we have together in this little dot on the planet we find ourselves sharing.”
No, I generally return the greeting, and then simply wait or glance over whatever it is I’m doing – studying, finding a part in a store, looking over electronic gear the geek in me loves to play with and touch. I would say 80% of the people with whom I come in contact spill their guts to me.
Interestingly enough, this seems to be hereditary. My mother is the queen of people giving her info dumps about themselves, and it’s almost she has something on her forehead written in an invisible ink that only lights up when someone’s talkative aura triggers it, saying “Tell me your life story.”
She was telling me about the people in the waiting room at the hospital – my aunt going in for a procedure, not me: Dora, an elderly lady who never married, who has a bundle of nieces and nephews, and who sleeps in a recliner when any of those nieces or nephews stay over. She stopped smoking 20 years ago, and loaned out a daybed/futon to one of the clan, only to receive it back with the mattress almost destroyed and useless, and the frame disassembled when it was returned to her, which was missing some nuts and bolts when she was attempting to reassemble – so many, in fact, that building it back up would be pointless, so out it went to the road for someone to pick up out of her trash.
She collects these tales wherever she goes, from the grocery store to a medical waiting room of some sort.
I’ve told her to start writing them down and emailing them to me, even if just in a stream of conscience matter, without worrying about punctuation or capitalization or spelling. While we were discussing this, I also came up with a title for a collection of stories told to the unnamed protagonist, to detail how intimately some people can confide into a total stranger – I imagine from a psychological standpoint, it helps to be able to unload the stress or the boasts or the worries or any of the usual life situations to strangers, as there’s no emotional involvement as there would be with their family, immediate or otherwise.
If she sent me those, I could flesh them out, and after compilation, the resulting book could be called Other Peoples’ Stories.