Small talk goes better with beer

This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Oct. 1, 2011

My wife had several important work-related events this weekend that required my presence.

I don’t like my wife’s work-related events that require my presence. Mainly, I don’t like my wife’s work-related events that require my presence because they often require me to make small talk. I’m not very good at small talk.

Actually, I’m not very good at large talk either. Unless the topic is sports or beer, I’m not much of a talker. Here I am trying to make small talk with the Queen of England.

Me: Hey, Becky.



Me: Boy, I hate the designated hitter rule.

Queen of England: Oh sure, like everyone is just dying to see pitchers bat.


Me: Want a beer?

I’m not much of a deep thinker. I don’t spend much time thinking about things. So, when I have to make small talk, I’m pretty much out of things to say after about 30 seconds. My wife, on the other topic, is wonderful at small talk. My wife has an amazing ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. My wife could make Marcel Marceau talk.

By the way, when I Googled Marcel Marceau, to make sure I had spelled his name correctly, one of the options that popped up was “Marcel Marceau quotes.” I thought that was funny.

My wife and I were once standing in the food line at a social function when my wife struck up a conversation with a young man standing in front of her. At the time, I was talking to my younger sister, Chris, who doesn’t like to make small talk either. Chris and I were talking about the fact that my wife doesn’t mind talking to complete strangers. After a few minutes, Chris and I stopped talking to listen in on my wife’s conversation with the stranger in front of her. As it turns out, my wife wasn’t so much talking as she was listening. The stranger was telling my wife about his time in prison and about a pending assault charge against him that he said was “bogus, man.”

As my wife listened to the stranger talking about his bogus assault charge, she gave me a look that said “If you don’t do something and get me away from this guy, but without being rude, I will rip your lungs out and use them to line our new kitchen cabinets.”

It was, as it always is, a heck of a look.

In return, I gave my wife a look that said “Don’t look at me, Oprah. You’re the one that started talking to John Dillinger here, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re on your own.”

Mine, also, was a heck of a look, but it was a look I would later regret.

I will say that I find it much easier to make small talk with a beer in my hand than without a beer in my hand. When I have a beer in my hand, I always know that I have a way out. If the small talk making begins getting awkward. All I have to do is look at my beer and say: “Look at that. I’m out of beer. I better go get another one” and then I can walk away leaving the person I was small talking with to say “Whew, I thought he would never finish that beer.”

At many of my wife’s work-related events I find myself making small talk with Robert Corn, the Missouri Southern State University men’s basketball coach. Robert doesn’t like to make small talk either, so we always seek each other out so we can stand together and not make small talk.

“What did you and Robert talk about?’ my wife will ask later.

“Nothing,” I will say, and my wife will be amazed.

‘How can two people talk about nothing?” she will say.

“Look at that; I’m out of beer,” I’ll say and walk off to find the Queen of England again.