816 North Opinion

July 22, 2014

Susan Vollenweider: Conversations with people I have never spoken to (and may not actually exist)

Welcome to my habit of holding imaginary conversations with people that I may never meet.

“Excuse me,” I said as I stopped at a red light, unrolled the passenger window and got the attention of the driver of a little white car next to me with bass so loud I felt it in my bones.

“Yeah?” the teen behind the wheel sneered at me.

“I saw you texting as you passed me, then you swerved into my lane and cut me off.”


“So, it is not only illegal for you to text and drive, it’s foolish, which makes you a fool.”

“What are you, my mom?” He laughed.

“No,” I said as the light turned green, “but I know her. I’m excited to tell her how I met you.”

The white car sped far ahead of me, weaving in and out of traffic. There were no stoplights for miles.

Yeah, that’s what I would have said.

Welcome to my habit of holding imaginary conversations with people that I may never meet.

I realize that this reeks of Living in the Land of What If, which I try to avoid, but the white car with the teen driver did cut me off. Realistically I knew that I wouldn’t get a chance to call him out for his dangerous behavior but that didn’t stop me from imagining that I did.

Maybe it’s a way to prepare for a potentially uncomfortable encounter.

Maybe it’s a way of bringing closure to a wrongdoing when no such resolution is actually possible.

Maybe I’m just nutty and like to give structure and free rein to the voices in my head, but the imaginary conversations usually follow a pattern:

Say the worst, meanest thing imaginable; be a jerk.

Replay conversation to add points and scale back jerkiness because I honestly do try to not be a jerk.

Add another potential anger-inducing statement from the offender.

Replay the entire conversation with edits and some zingers because in real life I usually think of the thing I should have said about 30 seconds after the opportunity to say it has passed.

Move on to real life.

It’s surprisingly therapeutic.

Recently we got new back-door neighbors who told my husband that they are building a fence. Great…except that building it required me to move my portion of a shared garden I had with the former back-door neighbor. I did the exhausting work, although I will admit to being upset mostly because the kitchen window view I had created over the last 10 years was wrecked.

“You didn’t move your really large, well-established, right-in-the-line-of-our-fence-plans Rose of Sharon,” said imaginary neighbor as part of a very long imaginary conversation.

“It’s a gift. Welcome to the neighborhood.”

When I walk into a store with an item that may not be returnable, I have already had a conversation with the cashier, her supervisor and the store manager. I’ve composed the tweets I will send to their corporate and know exactly what they can do to keep my business.

I’ve never, ever had to actually talk to anyone except cashiers who always accept my returns with zero drama. But I was ready!

I’m also prepared for several other encounters should they ever arise:

Elder disrespect

Animal cruelty

Improperly prepared restaurant meal

Teacher abuse of power over one of my kids

Sport coach behavior (varied)

The list is really long, but I’m ready for all of them.

In my imagination I don’t stutter, “um” or hesitate. I choose exactly the right word at the right time.

In my imagination I am always effective.

Too bad the real world doesn’t live in my imagination.

Freelance columnist Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, visit thehistorychicks.com.

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