The Daily Writing Challenge: It’s the Little Things

We’ve entered the second week of our challenge in the Leap of Words Facebook group, and I can’t say enough how absolutely ecstatic I am about the work our members have been putting in! Amber (my fellow co-founder) and I recognize how busy so many of us are, with families, jobs and other outside responsibilities, and it is a tremendous honor that those in the group have chosen to share their time with us.

If you didn’t catch last weeks post, you should definitely check it out and learn more about the group and The Daily Writing Challenge. In order to keep myself accountable and to share some of the magic being created, I’ve decided that over the course of the challenge my weekly blog posts will be dedicated to sharing some of the writing I’ve done in the group.

And if you’d like to get in on this amazing group, you can request to join by following this link: Leap of Words – Community of Writers

There are no requirements to join other than, you know, be a decent human being to your fellow members. We’re keeping the group settings private so that no one has to worry about the prying eyes of friends/family/that person you don’t actually know that well but friended anyways on Facebook, from seeing what you share or say within the group. Leap of Words is a judge free and supportive zone.

Now, this week we’re still working on personal essays and the prompt for today is to write an essay based the little choices we’ve made that had bigger consequences down the road. The following is my “It’s the Little Things” essay. This one will be turning into a much larger piece soon!

“Small Talk”, by C.S. Rausch

The train station where my story takes place.

I’m a friendly person.

I say that with certainty because I’m the sort of person who will talk to pretty much anyone, anywhere about anything. This story is about that one very giant exception to this part of my personality though. It may make me sound like a jerk, but I despise (with a white hot rage equivalent to the sun) anyone who tries to make small talk with me while I’m in the process of commuting by train.

Prior to my college days, I wouldn’t have described myself as someone with any sort of anger. Sure, I experienced frustration and disappointment at the things that most people do, but I wasn’t an “angry” person.

That was until I started taking the train to college, then things changed a little.

Everything about the process of commuting drives me insane. I hate waking up early, I hate standing on the platform and waiting for a train that’s always inexplicably late. I hate that the smelliest person always finds a way to sit near me. I hate that any announcement made over the speakers is completely undecipherable. I think every train station in the south eastern Pennsylvania area was purposely designed to make me unhappy, and to be covered in thick layers of old chewing gum.

And more than any of those other things combined, I hate that there will always be that one person, who regardless of the look on your face, whether or not your eyes are closed, or how loud your music is playing in your headphones, will tap you on the shoulder and insist you have a conversation with them at 6:30 in the morning.

On one particularly bad day, one where trains all across the area were deciding to just not show up, I sat miserable on the train platform as two hours passed and I was nowhere nearer getting home. The only other person, who stayed this entire time, was a middle-aged gentleman with a tan suit jacket and a bright yellow backpack.

He sat a few benches down from me, engaged in his phone the whole time, except for when he’d look up to check the clock.

I wanted to tell him to just give up, because no matter how many times he looked, the train was never showing up. As I stared at my own phone, trying to convince someone to come and get me, I realized that the man wasn’t sitting a few benches down anymore. He’d move closer to me, nearer to the clock and loudspeaker. I assumed he was trying to decipher the announcements they were making, but then it hit me.

He was going to try and make small talk.

By this point, we were the only two people left holding out hope for the train. This was the sort of experience that usually bonded commuters, but not me. I didn’t want any of it. So, feeling that this stranger was definitely going to be a talker, I stared harder and harder into my phone. I tried to gaze at him from the corner of my eye, to see if he’d leave me be when I accidentally caught his glance. Now, despite being strongly against small talk, I’m also against being unnecessarily rude. I knew if he said something, I’d have to respond now.

At first he just smiled, and made some comment about how everyone else had done the smart thing and left, but like me, he didn’t have much of an option. The train was his only way to get back to work. I nodded politely, faked a laugh at some joke I made and prayed to Jesus that was the end.

“Do you want to go grab a cup of coffee? The train isn’t showing up anytime soon and there’s a place right up here, so we won’t miss it when it does show up.”

This is the coffee shop in question.

This was my worst fear. Not only was this man asking for me to engage in small talk, but also he wanted to turn it into some sort of date. By this point all sides of my personality were fighting. Yes, I wanted coffee, but no, I didn’t necessarily want to talk to this person. I also didn’t want to seem rude by saying no and then walking off to the same exact coffee shop anyways. Did I feel I had to say yes just because this man was being polite? No, I didn’t owe him anything. But, still, the normally polite person I am, who loves meeting new people, was fighting with the angry commuter who despised forced conversation and the act of being near strangers.

These two parts of me were arguing for much too long and eventually my lack of response grew to be awkward.

“Or, I can just go by myself,” he said.

“Uh, no, don’t. I’m going with you.”

In retrospect, this was one of the weirdest ways to respond, but it’s what was blurted out my mouth without much thought. In that spilt, uncomfortable second, I made the small decision to ignore my hatred for commuter related small talk. It is also the same moment I finally really looked at this stranger.

He finally introduced himself, “I’m Sam by the way.”

And I don’t know if I even said my name at this point. I remember thinking to myself he had a great smile. One of those smiles that are semi mischievous but also endearing. Sam looked as if he always had a great story to tell.

He was handsome.

The handsome man himself!

Rather, I should say is handsome, because this coffee turned into the first date I had with my husband. We bonded over our hatred for the train, and even brought up how we both usually choose to ignore all other commuters. This was different though and as it turns out it took no small amount of decision making on Sam’s part to decide to ask me out.

Eventually our small talk turned into real talk, a quick coffee turned into a walk around the town and then finally a train ride together as we both realized it was late and we needed to head home.

Sam won over my heart pretty quickly.

And as much as I still hate commuting, the train and the entire process, I’m grateful now for the small talk.

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