At a tire store the other day, I had the misfortune of coming face-to-face with the bane of modern society: the self-absorbed yakker.
Let's face it, there's not a whole lot to do when they're putting new tires on your car except sit in the waiting room and drink bad coffee and read back issues of Motor Trend.
Another man was waiting for his car, too. He said his name was Bill.
So we started talking.
No, check that.
He started talking.
First he talked about his job in sales and how well that was going and how he was pretty much rolling in dough.
Then he talked about his house and how he had all this work to do outside and how it was killing him, between the weeding, pruning, mulching and all that business.
Then he talked about his boat and how he hoped to get it in the water real soon because the weather was warming up and, boy, he really loves sailing.
Maybe you're starting to see a pattern here.
The conversation, such as it was, was all about him.
Not once did he talk about anything else.
And, of course, not once did he ask about, well, me.
Or express any curiosity at all about my life.
Or even what I thought about his fabulous life.
Anyway, this went on for a good 25 minutes.
Twenty-five minutes might not seem like a long time to you. But it can seem like a 10-year stretch in Leavenworth when someone is droning on and on about himself and sucking all the air out of the room.
Unfortunately, avoiding the perpetually self-absorbed is getting harder these days.
This is not surprising, given that we live in the most narcissistic society imaginable.
Look at what's out there now for the Bills of the world to draw on:
We have social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace that are virtual "Museums of Me" for millions, where people can post their personal profiles and all sorts of fascinating details about their lives, including the answer to the question: "What are you doing right now?"
We have people posting the most inane -- and boring -- videos of themselves on YouTube, hoping for the requisite 15 minutes of fame.
We have bloggers in the blogo- sphere pecking away at all hours and posting every mundane thought that springs into their minds -- then waxing indignant that these postings should be treated as nuggets of wisdom.
We have ego-centric athletes who routinely refer to themselves in the third person. (Former NBA star Larry Johnson once famously told the media: "People know what LJ can do. I know what LJ can do.")
We have celebrities who go by one name (Madonna! Shakira!) like entertainment gods sent from on high.
We have bookstores filled with memoirs by people whose lives really aren't that fascinating -- except, apparently, to themselves.
And maybe from all that, we get the Bills of this world, convinced that their lives are fascinating, and that we want to know every single detail.
And, of course, we generally don't.
Still, to be in the company of someone who prattles on and on about himself is breath-taking to behold, and something many of us never get used to.
But sometimes these self-absorbed yakkers can be tricky.
Sometimes they'll actually pause and let you say something.
But just when you think: Oh, thank God, she's letting me speak! Maybe this CAN be a real conversation!, the self-absorbed yakker starts in again, off on another tear about her life, her goals, her dreams, her fears, whatever.
Getting back to the tire store, I said Bill never asked about me during our riveting conversation.
But that's not quite true.
Because when his car was finally ready, he stood and said: "Your name was Ken, right?"
"Nice talking to you," he said.
Nice talking to you, too.
We should do it again soon.