The title of this cartoon is “Comic Strip Demonstrates an Awkward Pitfall of Speaking to Your Coworkers.” It also applies to neighbors, cashiers, or any random people with which you might be forced to speak.
Maybe it’s not so much about having to discuss topics that strike to the very core of your soul as it is just taking a minute to listen to and really care about what the other person has just said to you. Which would help one avoid these types of circular “Shit; now I’ve made a fool of myself and am totally stuck” mandatory greeting moments. Moments that I find myself in allllllll the time.
For example, here’s a conversation I had with my wife the other day:
Me: I saw one of our neighbors downstairs earlier—the lady who is married to that guy who looks all serious all the time? (You can see I’m really good with names and faces, here…) Gypsy ran up to her and the lady was petting her. I totally forgot that our dogs had met her and her dog in the lobby the day before…so I was explaining that Gypsy wasn’t ferocious when she reminded me that she had taken a picture of her chihuahua with Gypsy. You know: Jack the tiny chihuahua with Gypsy the huge Great Pyrenees.
Wife: Oh? What did she say about Gypsy? Does she like her?
Me: This is weird, but I THINK she said… I’m not sure, but I think she said she sent the picture to a friend of hers who is dying. I think she said dying. Either that, or she said a friend named Eileen. I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask, “Did you just say ‘dying?'”
Wife: So what did you say?
Me: I said, “Oh, I forgot about Gypsy meeting you and your chihuahua yesterday! I’m losing my mind!”
Wife: (Looking stunned at my social ineptitude/total insensitivity to the dying friend.) So you didn’t acknowledge the dying friend? At all?
Me: Being that it took me by surprise and I wasn’t sure that was what she had said…. No. I didn’t know what to say.
Wife: How about, “How did your friend like the picture?” Which would have covered both “My friend named Eileen” or “My friend who’s dying”?
Me: (Looking stunned at her genius) If I could rewind back to our conversation, that is EXACTLY what I would say.