I tried it again at a convenience store (making American small talk), and the look I got from the cash attendant was one of undisguised bafflement. The whole plate of her face made it as plain as day that she did not know what the fuck I was going on about. And I was actually stunned by how stunned she was by the words coming out of my mouth. An alien could not have had a more singular effect on a human being. I wanted to say to her:

Don't you understand? I'm trying to make small talk. It's what you Americans love to do, and I'm just imitating you: the weather, the playoffs , the cost of gas, and so on. I hear it every day of my life in this country. And it frustrates me that you always give me this look, this stare, this open mouth, this godless silence when ever I go out of my way to be just like one of you.

The thing I disagree with is Heidegger's position of chatter/small talk. I do not think it is fallen (verfallen) form of speech. I think, as with Paolo Virno, it's an important part of human communication. I also agree with the sociobiolgist Robin Dunbar that small talk is to humans what grooming is to baboons and other primates. But Americans seem totally puzzled by my attempts to groom them. Totally puzzled.

Later on the bus, I did not even try to groom the man sitting next to me.

  • CM