Thursday, 8 July 2010

Oh, Where have You Been, Mary G, Mary G.

Number one Fan of Them's My Sentiments has just demanded that I get back on track and start posting again. NOF is, of course, my Younger Daughter, who reads my blog, I suspect, to keep track of what her dotty mother is doing from time to time. But, I have my orders, so here is an update.

In early May JG and I left on a marathon driving vacation. Our goal was a wedding to take place in early June in Washington State but the attendance at the wedding was really an excuse. We had both had a really tough spring and needed the break. And we had a good one. I am putting together a trip diary, this being a great excuse for not posting, don't you think, and may put up some of the best bits. With a few of the best of the photos. If I ever do get it done. We went across the continent through Nevada to Sacramento and detoured to Yosemite National Park. Then skirted San Francisco and drove Highways 1 and 101 north along the coast of northern California and Oregon. We left the coast at Astoria and drove along the Columbia River, with some detours, to the Methow River and up to Twisp, went to the wedding and, JG being totally tired of touring by then, drove east to the Ottawa Valley in five days. Zoom, zoom. 16000+ km on the car, I think JG calculated.

I got back just in time to fall into the last meetings and events of the several committees where I volunteer. That, plus trying to remedy what the neglect of five weeks of a May and June absence had done to the yard and gardens, not to mention dust, cobwebs and assorted wild life inside the house, seems to have used up the rest of June. We are now hosting Little Stuff, who is not so little all of a sudden, for nine days while her parents are overseas. Then we go to a cottage en famille for a week.

Then I may get a day off.

It always puzzles me as to what to say to acquaintances who invariably say 'HOW was your trip?' the first time they see you after you return. There may be a few who actually are interested and who will sit still for a short summation and even ask questions, but for the majority who ask, I think the question is a social noise similar to the 'How are you?' that people have to throw in after a greeting. I try never to ask that, mainly because the answer, if honest, would take longer than summing up a five week trip. I can't believe that anyone wants a comprehensive answer, really, at that level of superficial interaction.

For instance:
'Hey, Sally, good to see you. How have you been?'
'Well, my dear, my bunions are giving me hell and my blood pressure test came back way too high, the deer have eaten all my tomato plants and my husband hasn't spoken to me for a week.'
'My dear, can you believe it, I just won a lottery, my daughter has been granted a Rhodes Scholarship and I have the best tomatoes in the valley.'

In either case, caveat rogator. Too much information is not, in my opinion, a good thing, especially in the soup aisle at the supermarket where the interaction is blocking off the Campbell's chicken noodle.

If I am a close enough friend of the person I encounter, I will ask, specifically, 'How has ____ turned out?' or some other defined query to which I want an answer. Or if the friend is in uncertain health, I will ask about it. But to answer a greeting with 'How are you?' seems to me to be a silly, or even futile thing to do. The only possible polite and socially acceptable answer is a quick version of 'Fine, thanks. And you?' Mostly, the answer to that is a variation on 'fine' and no one is better informed.

And so I have been answering the question of 'HOW was your trip?' with a one sentence generality, mostly. I find it frustrating. I love to talk with people but I get horribly bored with meaningless conversations, party chit chat and other abuses of good communication. Most large parties cause me to long to be home with a book. This may sound weird, but I really enjoy riding or driving with someone and talking as we go; a very good opportunity to explore a subject or just chat. I also like writing letters or comprehensive emails and getting a detailed response. And just hanging out with a few other people is my ideal of a good time - if I don't have to cook, serve and clean, duties that really cut into the conversation.

Of course, there's blogging. Here I am, after a two month hiatus, saying that blogging is a conversation. Bad, bad Mary G. But for me, it is.

And, in the same vein, what do you do when someone asks you about your health or your trip?


  1. Good to hear from you. Trips are not easy to tell about anywhere, even on blogs, I find. You're right though; most people are simply acknowledging your trip and not asking for an accounting.

  2. I always give the answer that is expected. "Great!". Usually no one asks anything further.

  3. I'm so glad to see you back here, Mary. But a bit sorry that I don't get to be your number one fan. Can I at least be an officer of the fan club?

    As for what I do when people ask the short conventionalized questions, I tend to give the short conventionalized answers. Of course, it depends who is asking. (I am also one who is guilty of asking such short questions, and again, my sincerity in asking is variable. Sometimes I really want to hear all about the trip. Or the bunions.)

  4. Welcome back. I do hope you enjoyed your trip and it wasn't all rush rush? did you say wildlife inside?? ad here I've been complaining about the wildlife outside.

  5. hello!

    hmmm.... i usually give a trite answer to trite questions... but if it's a person who i know cares, I give more details

  6. I'm sitting here waiting for a detailed account of your trip with pictures . . . will I be sitting here for a long time? LOL!

    I've been gone for two weeks and have hardly had a minute to read blogs, your post was a pleasant surprise for me tonight.

    I usually smile and say, "it was nice" or "I'm doing fine". I find people generally overall aren't really interested in too many details.

  7. I used to answer "well, I haven't killed anyone today" to the question of "how are you," but it did cause eyebrows to raise.

    And I am the number one fan - not in the Stephen King novel way - and not because I am checking up on you, but because your writing is endlessly entertaining, informative and fun!

    And I think you should tell your loyal readers about your award - and post the tribute!

  8. My father always called it--dismissively, too--Small Talk. He abhorred it, and so do I. I love your term "social noise" to describe that perfunctory patter of greeting/response that no one even listens to. Your trip sounds incredible! (But very exhausting, too--so much car-riding.) Tell us some good parts when you get them all sifted out. You've been missed.

  9. I always ask my kids, what was the funniest thing that happened at school today? it helps them sort through all the events of a day & pick something to amuse their mom.

    so what was the funniest thing that happened on your trip?

    ps welcome back : )