Chats with strangers

Last time at a book festival, we were waiting for the next talks in a café, enjoying a bit of sun in the middle of a rainy week (this is that week when all the year’s rain falls at the same time in a few days, after months of drough). An elderly gentleman came to sit at the next table, ordered lunch and started talking to us about the writer we had come to see. It became obvious after a little while that he mainly wanted to talk, not have an actual conversation, so I slipped in Polite Smile And Monosyllabic Answers mode and we just talked about the weather for a while. He told us how he used to be the head of a department of the university, perfunctorily asked us if we had studied in Aix and then proceeded to explain what it was like to head an academic department, how most people there were jerks and how young people don’t really learn anything with the internet today, and worried that the gentleman over there looked gay, although of course he had nothing against gay people, but still. It lasted for about half an hour before he either ran out of things to say or got tired, and left to browse the books on display.  We didn’t meet him again afterwards.

The moral of the story:

Whatever brilliant career you dedicate your life to, remember that one day, you’ll become that little old man or lady who starts chats with random strangers in public places and gets indulgent smiles along with a sympathetic ear.

And that’s quite enough of an ambition in life.

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