I am good at small talk. I’m not referring to conversation openers like, “How about that game last night?” but literally talk with small things – like my pug dog Grace

I am good at small talk. I’m not referring to conversation openers like, “How about that game last night?” but literally talk with small things – like my pug dog Grace.


I notice that when I speak to my dog, I usually say the same thing twice.


“Outside? Is that what you want to do is go outside?” Or, "Water, that’s what you want is water, right, Grace?” She licks her lips when she hears this and turns over her water bowl with her paw so even the smiling human can understand.


Some people use small talk with babies. “Are you a cute girl? Yes, you’re such a cute girl. What a cute girl you are.” Babies seem to require a word be repeated three times, rather than the dog-standard two. Although take-out counter orders also usually require a trio.


“Medium coffee, regular with cream and sugar,” I order.


“Medium, cream and sugar?” the counter person usually asks seeking confirmation.


“Yes, medium, cream and sugar.” Then the ritual is complete and the guy behind you can ask for a hybrid concoction so complicated it would befuddle a chemist. Repeating his order three times causes the waiting line of people to groan and swivel like a dragon at Chinese New Year.


Exchanges in the morning are ritualized, too.


“Good morning.”


“Morning.”


“Hot.”


“Yes, too hot.”


The respondee usually has the burden of one-upping the greeter and taking it to the next level.


Imagine small talk at the Pentagon.


“Morning, DEFCON 4.


“Good morning, let’s hope we don’t have to go to DEFCON 3.”


Or take investment bankers greeting themselves on Wall Street.


“Dow futures are up.”


“Yes, way up.”


“Good news.”


“No, great news.”


And, of course, there is that special, and rare, morning greeting in the lobby as you enter the building.


“Hey, pizza in the conference room at 12:30.”


“No, way.”


“Yes, pizza, conference room.”


“Pizza, all right. Pizza.”


That’s a two-word repeat even a smiling human without a dog can understand.


Peter Costa is a senior editor with GateHouse Media New England and is the author of two books of humor. His latest, “Outrageous CostaLiving: Still Laughing Through Life,” is available at amazon.com.