I’m currently on a cross-country drive with my parents that began Monday morning in Massachusetts. The fourth morning of our trip found us doubtfully inspecting our options at the continental breakfast in a motel in Grayson, Kentucky, in the company of an early-rising couple from southeastern Ohio. The phrase “we fell into conversation” describes our experience aptly, but it didn’t go the way you might think.
It wasn’t so much wandering together toward the exchange of a few pleasantries over our bagels and cream cheese. It was more like the ground giving way beneath our feet, pitching us headlong into an account of their son’s bass-fishing championship and the subsequent trip to the advanced competition in Pennsylvania, followed by the display of a picture of the bobcat inside his deer-feeding station, and on to his dissatisfaction with the current political field.
Our chief captor was a genial man with an enormously loud voice. At about the time he shifted gears to get to work on our present head of state, declaring that he personally wasn’t all that prejudiced, but…I discovered a powerful need to go back to our room and join my dad in packing up, so I abandoned my mom to fend for herself. She can chat with the best of them,* and I knew she would manage handily.
She told me later that she was happy to visit with these folks—she had, after all, gotten the conversational ball rolling before I got down to breakfast. We may have come away with more knowledge about bass fishing, but the other folks would not go away empty-handed either. They headed out for a day’s fishing on Grayson Lake in possession of a story about my mom’s Grandpa Noah and his love of burnt toast.
*My mom maintains that she’s not a talker in the same breath that she explains how she likes to put people at ease, learn about them, and make connections. She doesn’t think of herself as someone who will stand around chatting for a long time when there’s work to be done. But if she’s on a plane, waiting in a line, or in a motel dining room, the work to be done is visiting, and she’s always been a hard worker.