Simplicity, brevity and short words, we are told, are the ingredients of good conversation. No doubt about it. I’m trying to learn from the teenagers the essence of this bit of wisdom. They’ve got it down pat. Recently I threw myself into discourse with a young fellow who was sitting on a bench outside a local pizza palace. I sat beside him.
Knowing that I must listen, rather than talk, I just sat there, silent. He said nothing. I said nothing. Minutes went by — I could see them out of the corner of my eye — and I finally spoke.
“Hi,” I said.
“Ho,” he replied.
“Good pizza, no?” I asked.
“I think it’s the best in town,” I said, downing my last bite. “I eat here often.”
I was surprised by his enthusiasm, and I continued the conversation.
“Are you getting out of town for the summer?”
“Yep, it’s too freaking hot here. Think I’ll go up to Kirksville.”
“I think I’ll go to Alaska. It’s cooler there,” I muttered, doing him one better.
“Cool,” he replied.
“Yes it is. Very cool.”
“You going soon?”
“Tomorrow,” I said.
“I’m driving up,” I said.
“I hate to because gas is now at four dollars a gallon.”
“Yeh. That sucks, man.”
“Well, good to talk with you,” I said as I got up.
“Yeh, me too.”
Merrill, a professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism, has written and taught around the world and here in Columbia for more than 25 years.