Silence of the Canes

I’m a chatter – I freely admit it. No life stories, but a comment for the cashier, a quick quip for others waiting in line with me, hello to the librarian. Normally I pick raspberries with my BFF Sara.  We chat away while we pick and if there are folks on the other side of the canes, we usually talk with them a bit.

This year schedules just didn’t coincide so I ended up at the raspberry patch on my own. I was sent down a long row of canes with just one lone gentleman on the other side.  He had just started as well and we were picking at about the same speed.  We even, by unspoken agreement, shared the “in between” space.  Sometimes he would pick berries from the middle and sometimes he left them for me.

But he didn’t chat. I asked just a few questions to see if we could find some common ground:

VS: What do you do with all your berries?
H:   We spread them on cookies sheets and freeze them?
VS: Me too.  After I make some jam.


VS: Where are you from?
H: Northfield
VS: That’s convenient.  (berry patch is in Northfield)


VS: Are you here alone today?
H: No, my wife is here.


Three hints are enough for me. Clearly he didn’t feel the need to chat, so I left him alone and we continued to pick silently.  His wife eventually showed up and they outpaced me although even as they got farther away from me I could hear that they weren’t speaking to each other either. So at least it wasn’t me.

Did your folks tell you never to talk to strangers?





29 thoughts on “Silence of the Canes”

  1. Hi-
    Pretty rare I am an early poster. (Staff day at the college today. Sorry, “Convocation Day”).
    Airplanes; as we traveled this summer, I often had the lone seat with a stranger. And while it feels odd to sit that close to someone for a few hours and barely speak, I kinda judge from the initial “Hello” if they feel like talking. Course if they put ear buds in right away that’s a clue.
    On the four flights we had, I only spoke much with one person, and that was as we approached the landing. She had cool shoes and lots of tattoos.
    Boyfriend is a rapper and she’s moving to LA to be his manager. Good luck to them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny that you mention airplanes because that’s the one place I am NOT chatty. If you sit next to someone and start chatting and it turns out you don’t really care for them or they are more of a chatter than you, then you are stuck next to them for 4 hours, 5 hours, 10 hours.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. me too but i was informed we are leaving at 11

      daughter goes to chicago for sophomore year of college saturday and today is her fair day sir wife has morning duties

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i am a conversationalist at heart but there are times i feel like getting my own stuff done so i lay low.
    we had a neighbor when i was a little kid, they were a family we didn’t have a lot to do with but they had 3 older kids
    when all the teenage girls in the neighborhood were unavailable mom would line up the mom.
    she is the one person in life i remember telling me children are not supposed to speak unless spoken to. i think i was being my usual in your face with a million questions of an adult 6 year old self and she wasn’t used to it
    we didn’t have her back much,her kids were kind of the brooding type a little james deanish

    my kids are a mix
    yes lots
    yes good amount
    sort of not too much
    yes but as a response
    no not much

    my wife is a non initiator so they get a mixed exposure

    i don’t trust people who don’t talk
    what are they hiding

    i always feel like they decided they don’t want to talk to an old hippy and i am semi grateful not to have to find the common ground.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, they did. But my grumpy, surly father chatted to people. Not my mother until in her 70s but then she went silent.
    My three grandchildren are chatters. My 5 year old CA grandson works the room. Last night he was on a restaurant patio (they have such things in spades in San Diego) with a play area plus tables. Jackson talked to kids, parents, a gay couple and their dog (yes, he talks to the dogs), the servers, and anyone wandering through. He will need to learn to respect people’s space soon. Most are enchanted. In most other respects he is not enchanting.
    I try to be a chatter, but, unlike Sandy, the QUEEN of chatting, I do not want to get involved with people’s private stories. Not with strangers. A quick happy word is fine. Lately I find myself saying to those most grievous of checkout clerks that if they hate their job so much, they should quit and stop spreading gloom. A couple I think thought about it.
    Last night we went to Bakers Square, as per Sandy’s choice. It was loud, full of smells and I walked in in a big pain flare up. The shots have helped a great deal, but I still have big flare ups. The host wanted to talk about the Twins. There I sat being expected to crank my neck back to look up at his face three feet above me, trying to hear, trying to find something inane to say about a topic I hate talking about sports. I watch the Twins but do not want to talk about it. Well, I did none of those thinks, but he persisted. So Sandy told him that I had a bad headache and back ache and did not want to talk. So then he did what? Can you guess? He wanted to tell me about his sore knee.
    I am often in pain out in public because standing and walking are painful and because the public world is full of my triggers. Medical workers can read my pain. They often comment how much better I look after the shots. But strangers cannot do so. I find a lot of chatters refuse to read the signs that I do not want to chat. I think I should get a lapel button that says Grumpy Old Man, but as Sandy says, people would want to chat about it.
    The few short friendly words seem to be rare. Grumps like me and people who talk too much.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. My fathet was a chatter who talked to everyone. I am more of an observer, but my favorite thing is to make goofy faces at babies in church or in store lines so they get all excited and make lots of nouse.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I know but it reminded me that they use nous on the Great British Baking Show quite often, and I had to look it up. We should adopt it here. Fine rich word, nice sound to it, fits its meaning.


    1. I make faces at babies, too, Renee. Always when no adult is looking. The poor kid freaks out and wants to say, “Mama, this strange man stuck his tongue out at me!” But she can’t. I should be ashamed of myself but instead I think, “Now that kid is hot to get language and start communicating.” I’ve done my small anonymous bit of public service, if you will.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. i thought about this as i tried to allow my family to do their things but i would get caught up in a conversation about whatever they were at the fair with, electric cars, recycling and the ramifications of china stopping the recycling biz, and then when i look up they are gone…they talk to each other i talk to other people who i have a hard time ditching and getting back over to the family


  5. I am not a chatty person, nor do I enjoy overly chatty people. I’ll engage if I’m interested and when I choose to, but for the most part I tend to put out “don’t chat me up” vibes. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, me too. I’m not good at small talk so then I try to ask random questions like ‘What’s been your biggest accomplishment today’ and people look at me funny and slide away.
      But you can have some really good conversations with people if they’ll play along!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. i have a son who i have warned that he needs to be aware that he takes waaaaaay too long to respond to any thought he is having. almost want to turn and run when you see him coming. one of those people you cant shake for 20 minutes no matter what you do. i am chatty but try real hard not to offer extended responses. i give a thought that is crisp concise and the right side of the argument and wait for the response.


  6. My mother would never have criticized me for chatting with strangers, for she herself loved doing that. Initiating conversations with store clerks was her way of demonstrating her respect for them. She lived much of her life without much money. Chatting with strangers amused her and allowed her to acknowledge the common humanity she felt with working people.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Having grown up in a small town, my parents never gave me such admonishment. I don’t think they considered anybody in town as a stranger. By the time we moved to a suburb of Copenhagen I was twelve, and everybody was a stranger, but that didn’t stop me from talking to people. But, unlike tim, we were brought up to never interrupt adults, children were to be seen, not heard.

    I’ll never forget the day we moved into our new house in Lyngby. The next door neighbor stood on her side of the hedge that separated our two properties, and offered a running commentary the whole time. She was a friendly and excessively talkative woman, with a husband who could best be described as taciturn. Niller, as everyone called her, was relentlessly cheerful and was a reliable source for neighborhood gossip, even if she often didn’t get the facts straight. Nevertheless, most people didn’t mind her mindless chatter, just took it with a grain of salt. A conversation with her required very little in terms of response, it was basically a monologue. She later became my sister’s mother-in-law when Randi married her son who had inherited his mother’s fondness for blathering on. (After my sister and Kurt divorced, he moved to Tanzania, where he was later murdered by the African wife of his Danish friend.)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I think of greeting a cashier or waitperson a matter of civility. Whether or not you engage in small talk is optional, but engaging in longer conversation can be tricky. Back when I commuted to work in Minneapolis via bus, I often found myself in the seat next to someone who felt the need to unburden themselves of all the misfortune that had befallen them. It could be anything from ill health, to trouble with family, or financial woes, but it always seemed that all they wanted was a sympathetic ear. So I listened, and nodded, there wasn’t much else I could do.

    Once, on a plane from Mpls. to Tuscon, I was seated next to an elderly gentleman. This was quite a long time ago, back when you’d get a meal on a flight like that. Once the meal service started, we casually initiated conversation. He was an architect, and it turned out that we had several mutual acquaintances. By the time we got off that plane, I knew more about him and his family than I did about some of my friends. Nice man, easy conversation, and a pleasant flight.

    To some extent I think that this business of talking to strangers is cultural. I’ve found that visitors from Denmark are astonished when they go with me to the grocery store and I exchange pleasantries with people in line. Do you know everybody? they’ll inquire. When I tell them that I had never met that person before they are surprised. When Hans’s daughter from his first marriage visited us when she was thirteen, she was crestfallen that I’d talk to strangers. Then again, perhaps it’s not fair to judge by what a thirteen year old is embarrassed by.


  9. My parents never told me to not speak to strangers, probably because it was totally unnecessary. Not only would I never think of talking to a stranger, I very rarely talked to any adult.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t recall being told not to talk to strangers. I think I was just warned about not getting into anyone’s car, and absolutely never to take candy from strangers. (An exception could be made, of course, for Halloween.) I think for several years I half expected some guy to hop out of a car holding a little bag of candy and asking “Would you like some Lifesavers?” In my imagination, I pictured kidnappers as having Lifesavers. Don’t ask me why.

    Never happened, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. not onle did i not get the idea of not talking to strangers i can relay my moms favorite.
    when i was a little kid of 3 we moved to bloomington. we had been there a short while and my mom said the doorbell rand and her friend form brainerd was at the door with me holding this ladys hand. i had gotten on my tractor and gone out to introduce myself to the neighborhood. i rang this ladies doorbell and said “hi im tim jones and we just moved in here and i am your new neighbor. ” the lady recognized me from living nearby in brainerd and she was a friend of my moms. she asked ” are you patsy jones little boy?” and i said yes and took her to meet my mom a block away.

    Liked by 1 person

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