I used to be one of the best. My small talk skills were immense.
I could keep up with anybody and make every small-talk session count. For an outsider looking in, there probably wasn’t much to talk about. But for us, villagers in a town of 730, there was plenty to sink our teeth into. There was plenty to hold on to.
The isolation, the limitations, the no-internet-era, the mountains, wind, ocean, dark nights and amalgam of characters that made up the town’s soul—these were the elements that stimulated and entertained me.
So, the small-talk skills came natural, just like being breastfed the essential nutrients—you just knew what to say. We would talk about things we didn’t know anything about. The topic could last for days.
The town only had those seven hundred something souls. Many of them were too old to hold a conversation, and others were too young to talk. This left me with the rest of its inhabitants. There was no Internet, cinema, malls or anything of the sort. You didn’t pick the hippest people to talk to. You made do with anybody you came across, a 62 year-old lady on your newspaper delivery route, and the 12 year old that got the first backyard basketball hoop.
You can only imagine the topics of discussion between all of us. But you’d be forgiven if you cannot. We just talked, elaborated, articulated, pretended and got involved. Debates were great too. I remember getting angry with a dock worker who was older than my dad because he claimed heavy metal was stupid and that my dad was a little weird for backing me up in my love for metal.
I was almost in tears. I hastily rode away on my BMX, fishing rod in one hand and three gutted cods dangling from my left handle bar. But it was great. This dockworker was an integral part of my reality and intellectual stimulation. We were all experts in this little town. We were all experts on matters regarding the neighbouring villages, too. We didn’t need anything else. Yeah, the city was interesting and throbbing with fun things to do, andwe’d go there once or twice a year. A nice change, but hardly relevant to us, just like Disneyworld wasn’t.
This lasted for 18 years. I was content and wanted little else. See, not having a choice provided me with the tools and skills to make the most of my little world. Later, I braved the world and my skills evaporated Bermuda Triangle style. More on that later.
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