Somewhere along the line, I made the inner determination that I would find a way to make anyone and everyone talk to me – whether they wanted to or not. I was determined to find that secret weapon – that one question or process that would open up the tightest closed mouth and unleash the personality within.
After an undetermined amount of study, I realized a few things about getting people to open up. The odds are in your favor if: 1) You can quickly find something in common that you and the other person can nerd out about. 2) Conversation can be pulled out of the unwitting subject with a bout of competition. 3) People will talk when topics are brought up that are a) common as heck, b) polar in popular opinion. 4) You have stories on standby should your subject not want to talk.
I found the secret ingredient topic: Pickles…But before you write me off, hear me out. I’ve tested this. It has a decently high success rate.
Think about it. Pickles are super common. Basically everyone knows what it is. And popular opinion is usually polar: People typically either love or hate pickles.
I, personally, do not enjoy pickles. I have a traumatic experience behind them that fuels my dislike. When I ask people what their opinion is on pickles, they either side with me and we have an alliance against all things pickles, or they switch to defense and find themselves clarifying – all pickles? Some pickles? What about bread and butter? Dill? Oh my goodness! You really don’t like all of them?
And that, friends, is how conversations start.
Then from there, it’s sometimes fun for me to take the discussion to the next level of potential absurdidy: Have you ever known someone, or personally experienced non-life threatening electric shock? I have. And it was a dumb mistake on my part. Haha!
Once that discussion dies out, the next logical topic stems around if you or anyone you know has had an almost drowning experience? I have. And it’s a tale that goes down in history as how not to tell your mother you almost drowned.
Usually, by that point, people are loose enough that conversation flows naturally. So. Good luck with that. 🙂
Ok let’s be real. You’re probably wondering what my pickle trauma and near death experiences are.
Pickle trauma: My best friend throughout middle school loved pickles. One day, my friend Emma came over and mom prompted me to ask her if she wanted a snack. Of all the things I happened to say as I browsed through the cabinets, I mentioned that we had a jar of pickles. Emma decided she wanted pickles. So, being the good friend that I am, I went to open the jar of pickles. As I opened it, the worst thing ever happened. I spilled it all over myself. I spent the rest of the day smelling like pickles…even though I changed my shirt. Smh.
Electric shock: Apparently when I was a young’un, I stuck keys in an electrical socket. Which explains my hair.
Almost drowning: I’ll write about it in another post. This one is long enough!
I didn’t grow up in a pro-sports home. The only time we watched it was on Sunday afternoons – and it was background noise for naps at that point. When I moved into the Swing house in 2011, I was quickly plunged into the world of sports. One of the things I remember learning that blew my mind was the concept of a sacrifice bunt. It didn’t make sense to me, especially considering that any time I’d watched a baseball game to this point, I was mostly eating peanuts or socializing with those around me.
If you’ve known me for a while, you know that I am a learner. I love to understand. I love to see patterns. When I learn a concept, I love being able to identify it next time it comes around.
One of the next times I was watching the Cubs with Uncle Tom, Aunt Sharon, and Matt, I saw it. I was so excited with my discovery! I asked loudly, “Isn’t that it? The sacrificial bunt?” The Swings started laughing amidst their affirmations. I was close…but not all the way there. Years of church attendance had fused with my new baseball knowledge, bringing about the tale of the sacrificial bunt.
Some kids are scared of clowns. Some adults find them creepy. At the ripe young age of 6, I thought clowns were amazing. Especially since I knew one. In real life.
Her name was Ike, and she was my adopted Kansas grandma’s sister. I found her incredibly entertaining. When Mom asked what I’d like to do for my birthday, it wasn’t a challenge to agree on our friend Ike.
If my memory serves me well, this was the summer after we started homeschooling. I invited my school friends (who I hoped still remembered me even though I wasn’t at school for a whole quarter), and suddenly, it was a party.
The morning of the party came. I remember feeling the buzz of excitement inside me. As a young child with profound lack of patience, I sequestered myself to my favorite lookout point – the guest room closet window, which looked over the street. After what seemed like forever, Ike’s car drove up. I ran downstairs and outside. Poor Ike didn’t even know what was coming her way. In my excitement, I probably didn’t give her any space whatsoever.
What I do remember though is that she showed me many secrets. I loved secrets. It made me feel special to get the insider information (and it oddly enough still does). She showed me how clowns have secret shoes that make their feet look huge and silly. They fit right over her normal shoes! I couldn’t believe it. She showed me her outfit and all of the goodies she brought. I was enthralled, to say the least.
My friends started showing up. I was beaming with pride. I, Joy Bork, a now 6-year-old, had my own clown friend. We played games outside, danced in circles. I saw my neighbors out back and had to let them know (via screaming) that I had a clown, and she’s my clown. I loved that birthday. And it was because of my friend Ike.
I have a very vivid memory of the day I verbalized one of my pet peeves. Mom, Janine, and I were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast (I’m pretty sure it was cereal). It was a normal day. We were probably about to do school. Something kept bombarding my psyche…and it wasn’t pretty.
It was the sound of my sister chewing.
I had to say something. I couldn’t hold it in. I couldn’t even think – my thoughts were pummeled by the chewing.
It seemed to get louder and louder.
“MOM. MAKE HER STOP. SHE SOUNDS LIKE A COW!”
Even in typing that, I realize the absurdity of it all. Make her stop (Despite all of my hoping moms can’t give anti-chewing orders.), she sounds like a cow (I don’t believe i’ve ever isolated the sound of a cow chewing to make an accurate comparison). Well. I guess it was the best I could do in that moment.
Absurd as it is, I despise chewing sounds. I’ve told groups that i’ve lead abroad that I will freely tell them to chew with their mouths closed if I happen to hear them wherever we are at. Open mouthed gum chewing drives me bonkers. I literally can’t.
But if I do happen to hear you chewing, rest assured I won’t compare you to a cow. It’ll probably be something i’ve heard before…like a camel…or a dog.
If you would have come to visit the Bork house when I was young, chances were high that I wanted to take you on a tour of the house. Yes, I wanted to show you all of the rooms, but there was one spot that was my favorite on the tour. It was my badge of honor, the one mark of my resilience and toughness.
What is it, you ask? A trophy? A medal? A creation of mine?
No. It was something much more impactful.
It was a dent in the wall.
I made that dent one day when I tripped and went head first into the hallway wall. It hurt like the dickens, but my head triumphed over the wall. Mind over matter. The dent wasn’t vast, but it was just enough. I left my mark. And I wanted everyone to know. I’d kneel down and show my tour members how my forehead fit perfectly in the dent, thus proving that I am the champion.
In reality, it was a 2”x3” oval dent in the wall, about 6” above the baseboard. Nothing stellar to look at. But to me, it was somehow important.
If I took you on a tour and showed you my dent, I’m both proud and sorry. Thanks for enduring it. 🙂
My sister Janine used to play keyboards in the band at church. As little siblings do, I wanted to do what Janine did…but differently. Because after all, I’m the youngest and am experiencing the world fully at the ripe age of 11. In my clearly (not) rational mind, the whole world revolves around me (even though mom tells me differently quite often). I found my mom’s old classical guitar in a basement closet. I brought it upstairs and showed it to mom, who helped me understand how to read a chord chart. Then I picked up some of Janine’s sheet music and started trying to sound it out. I remember getting so excited about what I was learning that I wanted to stay up late playing. Much to my chagrin, my playing just wasn’t quiet enough to fly under the radar of superhuman parent hearing (I’m still not sure how they managed to hear everything all the time. Maybe it is one of God’s gifts to parents?).
Not long after getting the guitar bug, we went on a family skiing vacation in Colorado. We made a stop at a friend’s house on the way. My parents were so proud of my playing progress that they brought it up during our visit. Janine had played in the band with the oldest son a few years before, so when the guitar topic came up, he was listening. To be honest, I was probably in the “oh goodness, my parents are talking about me again…this is awkward” phase, so I don’t remember what was said. The one thing I do remember was that before we left, something happened that took me utterly off guard. One moment, I was hugging everyone goodbye. In the next moment, the oldest son put something in my hand that rendered me speechless. It was one of his electric guitars. He looked me in the eyes and said that he believed in me and wanted me to have the guitar so I can continue learning.
That one gift – so freely and graciously given, propelled my love of music forward. It led the way to so many experiences that I couldn’t have imagined otherwise.
That guitar is off living its next life at college with my cousin. A gift that good must be passed on. Thanks for believing in me, Jason!
I was one of those kids that had “things” that I couldn’t travel or sleep without. Mine came in the form of my blankie and a stuffed animal named Brown Bear. I loved the literal stuffing out of that bear. I left him at a hotel once and I remember not sleeping quite as well those few days in-between leaving him behind and when the hotel graciously sent him back to me.
The one obscure bonus of brown bear is that I somehow figured out an additional purpose for him.
(Disclaimer: I was really young. I didn’t realize it was weird.)
His tag somehow had sinus relief properties. If I woke up with a snotty nose in the middle of the night, I’d stuff his tag (ya know…the tag that all stuffed animals have) up my snotty nostril and when I woke up next, it was all better. Some would say it’s a miracle. I just say it’s my Brown Bear.