My husband has the uncanny ability to establish an instant camaraderie with people. Seriously. It is a gift. It doesn’t matter where he is–the checkout line, the bus, the gas station–all it takes is one word, and someone starts joking around with him and saying something crazy. The result is often hilarious conversations with complete strangers. As an innocent bystander, I benefit by having my day brightened, and we often come home and repeat the conversations ad nauseum for our own amusement (he loves listening to people talk as much as I do).
So we had another instant camaraderie incident the other day, this time with a parking garage attendant.
We were leaving the hospital (my grandmother was admitted, but she’s ok!), and at the concierge desk, they told us that it was too late to get our ticket validated. So we grumbled at having to pay full price and headed out of the garage. When we pulled up to the parking attendant, here was the conversation:
Dear Husband: The guy at the desk told us that they didn’t have any more validation stickers.
Parking Attendant: What do you mean?
DH: He said that they had collected them all and closed up for the night. We were visiting someone at the hospital.
PA: Oh, you were a visitor?
PA: Well, they don’t validate visitors no way.
PA: Nope. Only staff.
DH: Oh. (jokingly, with a little attitude) Ok. Well, I was about to say . . .
PA: (jokingly, with a LOT of attitude) You were ’bout to say what? What you ’bout to say? You ain’t ’bout to say nothin’. People always talking about “’bout to say,’ but they ain’t saying nothin’.
DH: (code-switching) You right about that. People are always saying “’bout to say,’ but what they gonna do?
PA: Uh huh. You got that right. They got no follow-through. Talking like they gonna do somethin’. They ain’t doing nothin’. I wish someone would say something.
We pay for our parking.
DH: Ok, then. You have a good holiday.
PA: You, too. Have a blessed Christmas!
What I love about this conversation is that it is an example of what happens to DH all the time. He’ll say one small thing, and someone else will take it and run with it. Then, DH knows just what to say to keep the conversation going. He loves to push people’s buttons (in a funny way) because he loves to see people go off on comical rants. DH is also a master code-switcher, which really helps. If you don’t know what it means to code-switch, it means to modify your language to suit the audience or situation. So one minute, DH sounds like Mr. College Educated (which he is), and the next minute, he can sound like Mr. I Ran the Streets on the South Side of Chicago (which he did). It makes for *hilarious* verbal exchanges, and the conversation with the parking attendant is just one small example.
I have so many more, which I will share in time, and we are always running into new situations where DH’s instant camaraderie turns into conversation gold!
Writing tip: Characters are more interesting when they are complex, and dialogue plays a big part in demonstrating complexity. No one speaks the same way all the time. We are more formal at work and less formal at home. We cuss in certain situations and keep it clean in others. We may speak one language with one group of people and a different one with another group. Show this in your writing. It will make your characters more real and believable.