Elevator Conversation

When I first entered the US, I knew something was different (from Singapore) about the society, but I just couldn’t put a finger to it.
I knew that most people here liked to talk, or perhaps converse, and with a degree of proficiency and articulation as well.
Wit is a salient feature in their communication as well.

To test the locals’ propensity to converse, I tried to engage in small talk while in the elevator. I was on my way down to the laundry room, and the lift stops at the fifth level. Enter typical white american. He walked in with a perfunctory glance, more to access the vault he was entering – the number of people, what kind of people (it was just me). Then he looked curiously at my improvised laundry bag (it was a cubic plastic bag with a zipper, the packing of the comforter that I bought), with a curious frown on his face. Then I looked at him with a half-smile on my face and a upward-motion nod of the head, and when the gesture was reciprocated with an acknowledging pair of eyes, I knew I had the ticket to start small talk.

Tim: How’s it going?
Stranger: Good. (emphatically)
(lift door opens, and while we walk out)
Stranger: Going to watch a basketball game. We’re playing tonight.
Tim: Oh there’s a game tonight?
Stranger: Yeah, UGA’s playing down at *somewhere*, and I gotta friend, she drives, so I’m gonna watch.
Tim: Cool.
(As he was about to exit the main building)

Tim: Ok, have fun!
Stranger: You too! (although I don’t know how laundry could be fun, but I guess he didn’t know I was heading to the laundry room to do my laundry).

There you have it. A typical elevator conversation in the United States. Try going past the “How’s it going?” in Singapore. See if you can exchange a few lines without people assuming a form of mental disorder on you.

I still don’t have a name for this social disparity, maybe some sociology students can tell me?

Anyway, while blogging about this incident, I was reminded of the first day @ days inn motel, Leow pressed the elevator button by accident, opening the door to an elevator in which someone was inside:

Leow: Sorry!
Man in the elevator: It’s okay. Everybody makes mistakes. America was born out of mistakes!

Beat that!

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