How Do We Stop Talking About Work?

While I often take pleasure in cooking and eating at home, I just as equally fancy dining out. Often I am alone, and therefore I belong to a certain club. The i’ll-just-have-a-seat-at-the-bar club. Not only is there a certain sense of empowerment from bypassing the wait (if there is one) or reign of the host, but it also feels there is a certain collective understanding between fellow bar bandits and lounge loiterers. I like to believe we are all there for the same reasons.

In my mind, those reasons include allowing our minds to wander and get lost in all the conversations around us without actually having to put forth the effort of input if there is no desire to do so. We can let the day’s labor fall behind and just be our person. Sure, it may sound lonely to eat solo at a restaurant full of families, couples, and friends, but for me it is one of the most relaxing ways to end a draining work day. Plus, you get drinks the fastest and especially if you are charming enough to chum up the bartender. Then you are really in, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I actually enjoy just listening, observing and often laughing silently to myself over the various exchanges I witness. On the other side, when the mood strikes, you can almost always find an interesting character to chat with. My problem as of late is that the vibe of this club and its participants seems to come off as: we are all here because we want to forget about the work day and have a nice meal, but we have nothing else to talk about but the work we want to forget. Basically, my fellow club members have been leaving me with a sour taste in mouth. And no, they weren’t buying me margaritas.

Just the other night I encountered a perfect example of this. There was a man in his late fifties from New York visiting Louisiana for what he elusively called “some training” and a woman I’d place in her mid-thirties sporting a mouth full of braces and decorative scrubs. I sat there for a solid two hours merely a few bar stools away listening (like I had any other choice). In the first five minutes, these two exchanged your typical where-ya-froms and what-do-ya-dos. The next hour and fifty-five minutes consisted of  nothing other than exhausting work chatter.

She very obviously worked at some sort of doctors office or hospital and was carrying a practically unfitting and ridiculously tiny sequined purse, I assumed to distract from the shine of her braces. She insisted on talking about the problems of people living pay-check to pay-check and issues with employer promises that are left unfulfilled. This, in turn, left the conversation open for the man to repeatedly and vaguely reference how he recently made a “life change”. Eventually, she gave in and took the bait.

He then proceeded to unravel the details behind his “life change” which was really only an occupational change. He had left an unnamed company that he had been with for something like twenty years to help his friend with a big business venture. Wait for it. She pressed further to get answers from him all the while unaware that he was orchestrating her responses and puppeteering her curiosity. Finally, he made his big reveal. His big life change would be opening a new Pop-a-Lock branch.

Now, I am by no means anti Pop-a-Lock. Hell, had it not been for the friends I made working at the campus police station while in undergrad, I probably would have been one of their most cherished customers. I’ll admit I was pretty disappointed in the anticlimactic end to his hyped up story. However, I was more unsettled, almost saddened, that the two couldn’t talk about one single topic other than work.

But it is not just strangers. Every conversation I have purposely over-heard in the past few weeks has revolved around work. Some of them were neutral chats about a particular industry, but more often than not, I witnessed heated rants by jaded employees who just couldn’t seem to stop spewing about the exhausting topic. It is natural to use venting as a coping mechanism, and believe me I have practiced my fair share of it, but where is the line drawn? Can’t we all just order a really big chocolate dessert, another drink, and talk about the fascinating concept of  hula hoops or something?

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About Becca Cord

Becca Cord is a twenty-something year old southern ballerina turned humor writer and video editor. Having lived in Louisiana her entire life, she is now perusing her travel dreams while starting her own free-lance Web Marketing business and organizing a nation wide blogging event, Blogger Interactive. She believes one of her callings is making people laugh, and she intends to do so. You can find Becca on her personal blog, Facebook page, or Twitter @becca25tofly.

Posted on July 12, 2012, in Opinion, work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Some people associate their self-worth with their profession. Sad but true.
    Others just want to impress pretty young girls in the hopes of scoring. It’s a shame really; most of these guys will spend hours yakking just to spend fifteen minutes disappointig the lady…

  2. You stop talking about work when Tojo & Hitler are in power ’cause there are PLENTY of jobs.

    The American Economic Imperative: December 6th, 1941
    The American Economic Imperative: December 8th, 1941
    TWOOOOOOOOOOOOO entirely different POVs.

    BTW Becca: Thine facial comeliness is stupendously splendiferous.

  3. I have an annoying habit of interjecting towards the beginning of most conversations by referencing the small talk and opening the conversation to something larger. This is the equivalent of referencing an awkward silence and making it more awkward. If nothing else I become the social leper for strangers to bond together against, and my work there is done.

  4. If anyone says they had a life change it’s probably boring to me, I refuse to acknowledge the statement…I don’t feel bad about this although it may make me a bad person. Strangers who want to share such revelations are a red flag…I agree, I don’t like to talk about work at all. I want to pretend it’s my other life.

  5. If I have enough energy, I’ll start a conversation with some weird thing from my life and get opinions on it.

    “Hey, when my mother came to visit me I gave her some stuff to give away to poor people in her neighbourhood. A day later she posted an advert on Facebook selling the stuff! What do you think about that?”

    So far, everyone is on her side and says she sounds cool.
    Anyway, ‘what’s your job’ is for when I can’t motivate myself to be fun.

    I think a more important question is how do you get out of a conversation about someone else’s work you don’t want to listen to…

  6. I have a friend who does nothing but talk about work. He talks about the people at his work. The lame adventures they have with paper clips. It’s scary.

    I’ll usually lie to strangers about what I do. What do I say, “I sit at a desk and occassionally pretend to go to the bathroom just to be able to walk around” ? I guess when you like your job it’s easier. You assume everyone else will like hearing about. We don’t. We never do.

  7. Since we aren’t talking about work, I want to tell you that I found out I can hula hoop just as awesomely as I did when I was 7 and it was a truly defining moment in my life. It’s sad, I know. Another margarita, m’lady?

    • Keep ‘em coming! I must say that is quite impressive ma’am. I once saw a girl hula hooping with a gigantic hoop in the middle of my favorite bar/pool hall for no reason. It was mesmerizing.

  8. HI Becca – Thanks for mentioning my post on your post!

    Very nice to meet you!
    I’m Lee from way up in north LA and I actually have my very own hardhat (that I NEVER use) in my job either!
    We have SO much in common! :)

    • You are one step ahead of me then! Haha, where in north Louisiana are you? I grew up in Shreveport so I am considered a “yankee” down here. Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

  9. hey, wait, what? two hours at the bar? who dragged you home?

  10. i never like the “so – what do you do?” question. i don’t like the idea that we might judge each other by what job we do. there are plenty of people who hate teachers, so i hated telling people i was a teacher for fear of that. and there are plenty of wonderful people who are plumbers, trash collectors, grease monkeys, etc.

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