Conversations I’ve had with total strangers recently

I’ve been talking to actual, real humans a lot lately.

And this is unusual for me for two reasons:

  1. I usually don’t talk to people other than the good folk at my local Zaraffas drive-thru (and let me tell you they’re testing the relationship each time they ask me to buy a loyalty card); and
  2. You typically have to put on adulting clothes, or at least something that isn’t covered in peanut butter, as a baseline for most basic human interactions. Also a bra. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

So it’s quite the scandal that I have surprisingly found myself:

  1. Out of the house—GIRL, EVEN OUT OF THE CAR—and in very many social situations; and
  2. Dressed.

The two of these things happening at the same time—and on multiple occasions— is so unusual I suggest you go and buy a lottery ticket or something. It’s a sign.

Anyway, at these very many social situations, I’ve serendipitously found myself in a random conversation with complete strangers, and in some cases, giving some pretty inspired advice (if I do say so myself). So for your kind consideration, I present to you the glory of my aforementioned advice, and also some stuff I’ve said recently to people I’ve probably scarred mentally but will likely never see again. So it’s all good.

The “after a bottle of wine” advice

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If you’ve ever had a baby, and then waited for two years before leaving the house—because only over-achievers can juggle a small-bundle-of-constant-need-and-angst-that-is-sometimes-cute and also the ability to put on pants — you’ll know what I mean by MUMMY HAD HERSELF A MUMMY’S NIGHT OUT. And it was glorious. And it was fabulous. And I won’t be doing it again because the hangover has lasted about two weeks (and counting).

But anyway, whilst I was out kicking up my heels in a sensible pair of shoes and stretchy pants (that double as pyjamas because, “loungewear”), I accidentally consumed probably too much wines, and not enough burgers. The only logical end to this unfortunate happenstance is to of course bail up an innocent and delightful young lass with your zealous, old-lady words of encouragement and unsolicited advice. Yes, I’ve become a legit Boomer.

Anyway, suffice to say that my ardent words to this unlucky individual of “you’re the only one standing in your way—LET LOVE IN, DAMN IT!” was particularly embarrassing when I vaguely recall one of my friends empathetically patting her on the shoulder and whispering “sorry, she hasn’t been out in a while”. 

The “in the line for more wines” advice

Ok so before you start drawing completely reasonable conclusions about my relationship with sparkling rosé, let me just clarify that this was on the same Mummy’s Night Out!™ mentioned above.

Yes, it was a busy night for advice. Anyway, so there I was awesomely rap dancing standing quietly in the queue when two fellows joined behind me. One was being

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particularly affectionate to the other, leaning in and whispering what I initially assumed were sweet nothings into the other’s ear. “What a lovely couple,” I thought, before turning my attention to consider exactly which loaded chips I was going to get as a side for my wines.

But before I could decide, the affectionate one leaned into my personal space bubble and – with a very many kebab breath – said “Your Macleans are showing! Remember that ad?”

“Oh, uh, yes, I do,” I stuttered, squinting at the onions and high BAC emanating from his gob. He turned away for a split second, in which time his companion mouthed “sorry”, and managed – through a complex series of Marcel Marceau movements – to mime that he didn’t actually know Macleans Mate, that perhaps Macleans Mate might be a little bit of a weirdo, and how the blooming heckers could he get away from the unfortunate hostage situation?

“I hate people who use Colgate,” Macleans turned back around to say, “I just shoot them in the tooth… with a straw.”

“Riiiiiight,” I responded, doing my very best side-eyeing Chloe. Thankfully, he turned away again for several moments to randomly fist-pump the air so I took the opportunity to advise his pained companion in hushed tones, “Stay in well-lit areas, and carry your keys between your fingers so that you look like Wolverine”. He nodded in earnest appreciation.

And in case you’re wondering, I got the cheeseburger loaded fries which turned out to be vegan and made out of root vegetables – NOT POTATO. Vegan I can handle, but no potato? I’m sorry, that should be illegal.

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The “supermarket checkout” photo swap

Ok so not technically a “social situation”, but still, a fairly lengthy social interaction nonetheless (especially if it’s at the weekly “big” shop, which involves standing in front of the checkout human for a good 5-10 minutes whilst they find out way too much about my relationship with cheese).

Anyway so there I was standing sheepishly as the third type of cheddar was being scanned when I noticed the checkout-person had a lanyard about her neck that read “No one deserves a serve” with the words “I’m a mother” underneath.

I’ve seen this sort of thing around a lot lately – probably something to do with all the toilet paper hoarders relentlessly harassing the good people at the supermarket with their battle cry “Flush, flush, hear that cry – Give us all your triple-ply!” It’s actually quite disappointing when you think about it; the fact that we need this sort of visible and emotive messaging to remind us to not be totally awful. But anyway.

So I says to Mabel, I says “how old is your little one?” And she starts waxing lyrical about her 2.5 year old before stopping herself short, widening her eyes, and slowly dropping her jaw.

“Wait, how did you know I have a child?”

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Of course I realise now that I should have said “duh, I’m psychic” or just simply whispered “I’ve said too much”. But alas in the moment, I merely laughed and drew the poor woman’s attention to the literal sign around her neck advertising the fact she does, indeed, have a child.

She then laughed at her own unawareness and we then engaged in the mandatory tradition of mutually shoving photos of your offspring in the other person’s face until one displays the best ‘gram and therefore, wins.

Obvs, I won.

The “bakery line” connection

She was one or two people away from the counter, waiting to order. She looked over her shoulder at me, and then turned back to face the cabinet. Nothing unusual there – that’s how it goes in a bakery queue; you survey your surroundings as you wait, make accidental eye contact with someone, pretend you weren’t looking at them by darting your eyes just left of them into the great big void of social awkwardness, then order your almond croissant and flat white whilst painfully ensuring you

don’t accidentally look at anyone else lest you give out some serious bakery line weirdo vibes.

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But then she looked back again. And then a third time. And then she smiled. Naturally I did that thing where you look behind you to see if there is someone nearby also smiling like a derp. But no, there wasn’t. She was just randomly smiling at me.

ISO is making people less anti-social, and it’s weird.

Anyway she takes her time ordering, and I find myself at the counter whilst she is still listing out the very many things she would like to purchase please. I even find myself outside, waiting for my coffee, by the time she has completed her order and is, too, directed outside to wait for her caffeinated beverage of choice.

Oh no I think, casually avoid her eye line, and pretending to be on my phone (THANK GAWD FOR FAKE PHONE-DOING). Then they call out my name, and I look up. She catches my eye again, and as I go to collect my coffee from the latex-gloved barista, she exhaustively sighs and says “I just want to sit down!” – smile-shrugging at me like that one person in every 1980’s sitcom intro ever.

Of course I politely did that thing you do when you don’t know what to say to someone who is awkwardly trying to start a conversation with you in the bakery queue, and said “ha… yeah” whilst shuffling back to the car with Olympic power-walk precision – and my keys between my fingers like Wolverine.  

See? I told you I was a people person.

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Duh.

Sarah-Elke Kraal is a Queensland Law Society Senior Legal Professional Development Executive, s.kraal@qls.com.au.

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One Response

  1. In the words of the Foo… “Everyday, I’m shufflin…” away from the peoples that are unsure how to resume being around other humans!
    Loved this piece, Sarah! Totally resonates with me and I LOL’ed! Hooray for peopling! You’ve done well! And, may I just point out that there’s a reason why leggings and jumpers have sold out in all the stores because, you know, “loungewear”! (Happened to a friend of a friend of mine)

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