Today I'd like to discuss something I call "the WTF Moment." WTF Moments occur when people say something so far departed from the conversation at hand or so out-of-the-blue that you can't figure out how they reached the subject.
There's no graceful way to ask the speaker to explain himself, and generally these statements either create uncomfortable conversation vacuums or result in a total brick wall which stops the conversation dead until someone can awkwardly steer the talk back in a less WTF direction.
It's not that I'm against discussing the bizarre or the taboo - I'll talk about anything you want to talk about, so long as it's brought up in a way where I can understand the train of thought. But when someone turns to me and drops an unprecedented conversation topic out of nowhere, I have two general reactions - I either nod slowly and uncomfortably until I can regain my footing, or I act like I didn't hear them in the first place. If they really want to discuss it, they can try again in a much clearer way.
This afternoon, I had a hardcore WTF moment. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have my honors class. The honors department in general tends to attract an eclectic group of students, and my current class (Androids, Aliens, Robots and Cyborgs: The Other in Science Fiction) increases that factor tenfold.
I got to class early (mistake) and sat down to re-read a few passages from the book we were currently discussing. A few minutes later, one of my classmates (way, way left of center, this one) came in and took a seat right beside me.
After a moment of silence, he heaved a huge, wistful sigh and said tragically, "I miss the dinosaurs."
And that was all. Seriously.
I had to look around the room - there were no book, posters, or other media that would prompt "dinosaurs." Nothing I was wearing or reading would suggest "dinosaurs," and the same goes for him. Eventually I ascertained that no, there wasn't a damn thing in the room with any remote connection that would make him nostalgic for dinosaurs.
By now, about a full minute of silence had passed; it was waaaay too late for me to ask him why, exactly, he missed the dinosaurs. Moreover, I honestly didn't want to know the answer to that question - this guy intimidates me in ways I can't explain, and his effort at a conversation starter really wasn't doing it for me.
Thankfully, a guy friend of mine showed up for class right at that penultimate awkward moment and asked me to join him outside while he had a quick smoke. I can't stand cigarette smoke; however, I'd rather brave the secondhand smoke and chat with a friend than sit in class awkwardly trying not to notice dinosaur-guy trying to catch my eye.
By the time we got back, it was time for class to start up and my new seatmate had apparently forgotten his melancholy memories of those good ol' Jurassic days. Thank God for small things.