I was minding my own business in the canteen at work the other day, waiting patiently for a friend to join me so we could have a coffee and a bit of breakfast at the end of a long week, when a voice hailed me:
Naturally, I turned around, only to see a young lady, perhaps in her early thirties, bouncing enthusiastically towards me with a huge smile on her face. I didn't immediately recognise her, and from a surreptitious look at the (upsidedown) ID card clipped to her belt, I didn't seem to recognise her name either.
I smiled. Winningly, I hoped. God, I hate small talk.
"You probably don't remember me, but we worked together a few years ago, in the offices in town. I was temping, and it was my first ever job. I was there for about eighteen months in all, but then moved away from Nottingham. I've just moved back and started a new job here. Today's my first day!"
I looked at her and, now that I thought about it, she did look kind of distantly familiar. She was now looking at me expectantly, and it dawned on me that it was now my turn to say something to hold up my end of the conversation. I decided to pitch at something welcoming, but slightly off-hand and debonaire with perhaps just a hint of insouciance.
"That was twelve years ago!"
To be honest, I was a bit taken aback. I'm not wonderful at making small talk at the best of times, but I'm absolutely terrible at it when I'm taken by surprise. That job seems like a lifetime ago, the other girl we both worked with back then now has two children and lives in Madrid. What with the passing of time and me growing a beard, losing weight and most of my hair falling out, I was somewhat surprised that she recognised me at all. I was certainly surprised that she apparently thought of me fondly enough to bound over to say hello.
She was perfectly delightful. If I see her again, I shall make a point of asking her about her new job or another normal conversational builder like that. With a couple of week's advance warning, I should be able to come up with something spontaneous. It probably would have been better if I could have thrown those in when she re-introduced herself to me like any normal person might, but it's better late than never, eh?
2 days ago