The other day I had occasion to congratulate a neighbor on his recent marriage. Having delivered the formalities and best wishes for a married future at least as good as mine has been (and it has) I was asked what was up with me.
“Well”, I said in my friendly neighbor chitchatting voice “I’m really excited because our posters are hitting the stores, the Star Trek comic is at the printers, I’ve got these awesome scans of pulp magazines coming and….”
Along about half-way through that sentence I realized that the former bachelor’s eyes were glazing over and that his face had settled into a rictus grin. I’m Sheldon-esque at least insofar as having a need to finish a sentence, so I did, lamely concluding that things were going pretty well, thank you. I had no need of telepathic powers to inform me that the thoughts on the surface of my neighbor’s brain were shuttling back and forth between “when is this idiot going to shut up?” and “why did I ever come out of the house?” in an endless drone of utter boredom.
“Hey” I said, trying to change the subject to something closer to mutual interest “did you hear about the recent studies that suggest that the bacteria in our gut can actually change our brain chemistry? And how about that Oxford professor who did a study that suggests we’re in more danger from artificial intelligence than we previously thought?”
These conversation starters met with glazed eyes and those noises one makes deep in the throat that substitute for words when one knows they are supposed to say something but have nothing to say.
The neighbor’s dog put in an appearance at this point. I know the dog better than I do the neighbor. He’s a black lab, big for his breed and a very gentle soul. And he lives for tail scratches. Scratching away, I desperately sought for a way to bring dogs into the conversation and came up with:
“You know, there’s this SF author named Simak, and in some of his stories, mankind is gone…replaced by dogs and robots…”
“Hmmm” the neighbor hmmmed. “That sounds about right.”
I chose that moment to remember that I had to go run some errands.
He thanked me for my kind wishes – probably the only part of the conversation he remembered. I’m sure the rest sounded like the adults in Peanuts cartoons “mwua wah wah wah”.
Sometimes I think I’ve landed on the wrong planet.
But then I come home, sit down at the computer, log in to Amazing Stories and – “Ahhhh. There’s my people!” Fans. People who can be relied on to at least listen long enough to change the subject to something they are interested in. Somthing that, no matter how convoluted or esoteric, does relate in some fashion or other. Or at least they’ll offer up a pun.