Combating the conversation lingerer

By Sam Spiegelman

Ever get caught in one of those never-ending conversations — the kind where the level of awkwardness has reached an uncomfortable high because you seem to be the only party involved who realizes it’s gone on for far too long?

You have. I have. We all have. We’ve all encountered a … (sigh) … conversation lingerer.

He or she is the person who continues to make a last-ditch effort to extend the conversation when you’re trying to leave the room or move on with your day. Just at the point when you think you’re going to part ways, he or she will just throw a random zinger your way.


“How about this weather, huh? It’s terrible, isn’t it?” the lingerer will ask, in the midst of a thunderstorm.

You have got to be kidding me, dude. I just walked in from outside; it looks like I tried to wrestle a whale. We just endured the longest minute of awkward silence possible (the tell-tale sign a conversation is over), and you’re going to throw a curveball like that at me?

The conversation lingerer has the ability to make a pretty decent joke, sure, but usually proceeds to turn that witty one-liner into an unnecessary extended metaphor.

Seriously, you’re still going strong with the same joke you made 25 minutes ago? It was funny at first, but how many times can you rephrase it and expect me to conjure up a friendly grin? My jaw hurts, and this is one of the few times I wish I were sitting in class.

The conversation lingerer is the person you just can’t seem to circumvent in your daily routine. No matter which route you travel to your classes, where you choose to relax when enjoying a bite to eat or which restroom you happen to choose, the lingerer is there, equipped with a long, mind-numbing anecdote for you.

Like a lion on the prowl, ready to pounce on a helpless gazelle, the lingerer is there, waiting for you.

Granted, it may be our fault for chuckling a little bit or encouraging the lingerer with a half-grin, but why does that mean the torment must persist? Why is our attempt at kindness subjecting us to this? Is there such thing as karma? Is it too late to pretend I don’t speak English?

I propose we put a stop to this cruelty. We’re going to end this social awkwardness and prevent conversation lingerers from clogging up the precious free time in our busy days.

When we pronounce a conversation over, we’ll walk away — midsentence or even midword if we must. When we hear the same joke a fourth time, we’ll expose it and admit the first laugh was only to avoid being rude.

And please, no more attempts to salvage conversations with that random last statement. Try to pull one of those and it won’t be pretty. We will walk away like a bride at the altar. No matter how mean, no matter how awkward it may be, it’s going down.

So go ahead, conversation lingerer, make my day. Tell me everything you’ve done since I saw you last. Tell me you have a great story, just for me. Tell me what the weather is like outside; I haven’t noticed on my own.

Today we become conversation-enders. Extend this friendly exchange two seconds past that awkward pause and you’ll be left talking to yourself.

So, folks, the choice is yours: You can either be a lingerer or you can be an ender. I know you’ll make the right call.


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