WEB EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: A guide to the stop and chat

Bob Patrick

One of the most awkward social situations that I hate to find myself in is what I have to come to refer to as the “stop and chat.” The stop and chat is engaging in any meaningless banter with a person you share some vague connection with. Sometimes avoiding eye contact or pretending I’m on my cell phone doesn’t always work, and I find myself face to face with someone whom I would consider more of an acquaintance than a friend.

Over the years, I have analyzed this phenomenon, and I would like to impart my wisdom on you, the reader. It is important to recognize the various types of chatters. Knowing what type of chatter you are dealing with will aide you in employing the proper methods necessary to minimize chat time.

The most common classification in a college environment is the “person you know from class” chatter. You recognize the person upon bumping into them in public, but nine times out of 10, you don’t know their first name. What makes this exchange especially painful is that you have nothing to talk about except the class that you are both in. The most common conversation-opener being: “So, how do you think you did on that quiz?” Do you really want to be discussing in the bar what a shitty grade you received on the last Micro quiz?

Instead of relying on the mundane topic of LERs, try making up a story about how you and your friends got into a fight with a group of German international students earlier in the night. Be sure to save face and say that you won.

Another common chatter is the “random high school acquaintance.” These are the people who you really weren’t friends with in school, but five years later, it seems they might have known you better than you thought. By the way some of these chatters gleefully approach, you would think they had finally found their biological mother. These individuals will inevitably ask you the question: “So, what have you been up to?” It’s all about making the person you are talking to feel inferior, so be prepared to regale them with your saga of coming out of the closet, or how you studied dolphins in Sweden over spring break. If that doesn’t shake them, rudely answer your cell phone and pretend to talk to your non-existent boss or girlfriend.

The “same hat chatter” can be an especially annoying variety. This chatter feels that you two have something in common worth talking about due to the fact that you are wearing the same hat or sports team’s apparel.

Usually the conversation will kick off with drunken yelling across the bar, room, etc., “GO (insert sports team)!” This is commonly followed by an overzealous slap on the back. Because these chatters are usually inebriated, they are easy to evade.

Some other varieties of chatters to be especially wary of are the “who the hell was that?” chatter, the “friend of an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend” chatter, and the “person you knew in the dorms freshman year” chatter.

One final thing to remember is that during the course of the stop and chat, you may be pushed in to exchanging cell phone numbers as a token “We’ll do something sometime” gesture. It is always OK to tell them four instead of five — they’ll probably think they screwed it up.

Utilizing these simple classifications will hopefully make your next stop and chat a little less excruciating.

Bob Patrick is a junior political science major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].