There are a lot of thoughts going through my head right now. I’ve noticed that’s how most of my thought processes are. It starts with a random undefined idea triggered by anything from something that happened or a conversation I had or something I remember. The thought slowly becomes a preoccupation and I obsess about it trying to understand it. Sometimes writing helps. I often wonder if this is the same thought process that other people go through, is it? Whether or not you write? Today for example, I was studying, and suddenly I couldn’t concentrate at all and kept thinking about my time here in Cardiff and how I interact with people.
So my recent preoccupations have been with my behavior in crowds. I don’t think I was aware of it before, but since coming here I realized that I don’t like crowds. I find it very hard to interact in a crowd.Even with people I know, I rarely if ever meet more than 2 friends at the same time. It’s also because I often know most of my friends from scattered places/ interests. Because of this, the few parties that I have ever tried to throw end up in a tiring effort of trying to split time between the different groups who usually seem to have nothing in common.
Going back to my group behavior, I think – and I say this from a purely scientific standpoint- that I have a ‘charm’ switch, that can only be switched on when I am in a small group.
My most recent example of my charm-switch theory (cool name ya? :)):
I crashed on someone’s couch my first night in Cardiff, and the next morning, went house or rather room hunting. I had already set-up a couple of interviews online so I started with those. But on the way back to my host’s place, I come across this letting agency on some corner and decide to do a walk-in.
The bell at the top of the door jingles. It’s stifling in here, the lady inside has set the heating to Hell. In this hot room, still she wears a white polo-neck. I notice that on top of that there is a fur coat on the hanger behind her chair, she must be super-afraid of the cold I think. She regards me suspiciously, like it’s the kind of office you only visit on appointment, and maybe it is. But I’m already inside anyway, so I tell her I am looking for a room. She continues to look at me suspiciously, ‘mmm’ing and ‘aaa’ing as she looks for words in English, she sounds East European. She says that they don’t have free rooms, and asks me how I heard about her agency. A few minutes into the interrogation, it’s clear that this agency is very selective and only rent out rooms to people they think are trustworthy. At this point I consciously flick on my charm switch. In a space of under 10 minutes (ok, maybe a modest 15), I go from being looked at like a dangerous druggie to being told that I seem like a ‘nice guy’. She asks me to come back in an hour. When I do, she drives me to 2 different houses…so much for not having room.
We spend the next half hour together, all the time my charm switch is on full mode. I take my cues from her. She reaches to wear her seat-belt, clearly a safe driver and so I follow suit. I let her talk about herself. Walking from the car, she drops her purse and I quickly pick it up. She drops it again and I pick it again. I can tell she’s comfortable because she even forgets to take it from me and now I am holding a pink purse…the things you do for charm. She likes to talk, so I actively listen. I think charm is a pretty scientific and obvious process, it’s a lot about reading cues and responding correctly. I learn about her and her son. I learn about his hobbies and what he studied. She talks a lot about him, so I drop in lines like ‘ Wow, that’s great’ ‘What talent’ (truly though, her son sounds like boy extraordinaire, apparently he’s a super ballroom dancer, super athlete and a PhD). Now that she has taken the time to outline the guys resume, I unleash the obvious line ‘you must be very proud of him’. She also tells me where she is from and what she studied at university and even her opinion on English tenants. I decide on one of the houses, and she volunteers to wait for me to go back to my hosts, get my luggage and meet her so that she can drop me. (Please don’t confuse charm for sucking up, charm needs one to have their own opinion and genuine interest. But anyway, moving on.)
After drinking the coffee and eating the chips she offers now that we are back in her office, I am a ‘diamond’ she says green eyes all sparkling. Before you scream ‘cougar!’ she wants me to meet her son so that we can go wall climbing and where she says I can meet some girls as she winks. LOL.
So yes, I have no doubt about I can be at least reasonably charming and even interesting on a one-on-one scene. (Let’s just be real, you find me interesting and that’s why you are reading this.) I have been trying to understand why I can’t find my way in a crowd. It’s 8 weeks into my masters class, and nobody calls me ‘diamond’. hehe. Well, I am not the spaced out guy in the corner with his mouth open all the time (there’s such a guy, hihi), but I am nowhere at the same time, and it’s not by design.
After much thought, I suspect these are the causes of my woes:
1. I largely dislike the social construct (is that correct phrase use Mumbi?) that is cliques. I flee from any signs of being cloaked in uniformity.
The idea that cliques go beyond high school might seem silly to some of you, but think about it. Cliques exist even at work, with the guys who work in supply or accounts often being the uncool kids. hehe. Cliques always form within large crowds, and that’s natural. We all need somewhere to belong. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was not just some theory, it is quite apparent on a daily.
2. I hate small talk.
It makes me feel awkward and desperate. You are at a party, and there’s someone telling a good story when suddenly they leave the group standing there. This is usually the universal reaction:
– Someone will fiddle with their super-bright touchscreen smartphone pretending to read a text or conveniently choose the moment to make a call
– Another person/people will ‘calmly’ look around and walk away to another more happening circle
– If there are still a few brave souls, they will engage in an exaggerated chat about soccer, the weather (in the UK) with the most popular topic being the turnout at whatever party you are in. Popular topics to look out for in the parties you have lined up this December are ‘ will Peter Kenneth win the election’ ‘does Martha Karua stand a chance’ ‘ is Jeff Koinange’s voice real’ ‘Are you going for Blankets and Wine’
Small talk is synonymous with big crowds. You cut through the shit when you interact with people individually. I mean, this woman even showed me a picture of her naked self on day 1. But I suppose she was a bit nutts and maybe you shouldn’t try that at home.
3. I judge, swiftly and permanently.
In a crowd, after 5 minutes of listening to a stranger, I usually decide if they are worth speaking to. If I think they are genuine, I will speak to them. If I think they are pretentious, I dismiss them. If I think they’re an asshole, out. If I am curious, I will try to isolate them. These aren’t as conscious decisions as I make them sound, but generally that seems to be what happens.
Judging is a really bad habit, I know. I have tried to stop it, but the problem is that I am usually right. HAHAHA! I decided to count it as a natural talent.
But life will be full of crowds. Even as my thoughts continue to settle, I figure that it might be important for me to move away from one-on-one interactions and learn how to work a crowd? Learn how to put my individual preferences aside in order to belong? Belonging also has its benefits, that’s for sure.
But the thought process continues, everyone and especially those who know me, what think you? Comment/email me.