Conversations with Interesting People

When I started listening to podcasts, it opened up a whole new world of information. I no longer needed to listen to shows when they were broadcast — I could listen to what I wanted when I was stuck commuting. For an information grazer it was transformative. Since signing up for Stitcher in January 2012, I’ve listened to nearly 4,000 episodes totaling 530 hours.

One of my favorite shows is Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the NPR news quiz show. I listen to nearly every episode, usually on my Monday drive into the office. I even got tickets last year for my birthday and made the trek downtown to see it being taped. We had to get my parents to drive into town to stay overnight with the kids. We got a hotel room and made a date of it.

I really really like it.

One of the reasons I like the show so much is the Not My Job segment. The host, Peter Sagal, interviews someone interesting and then asks them three crazy multiple choice questions about something they know nothing about. Sometimes the individuals are famous — sometimes they are influential. Sometimes they are both. But the person is always interesting.

And, I am always a little jealous.

There is something wonderful about having a conversation with someone who sparks your interest. I am fascinated by the individual journeys that people have taken and by the things that they are capable of doing. The ideas that they have considered and embraced — or considered and rejected. I was reminded today that I have a rather unique ability to find the interesting in anybody.

I had two conversations recently where I remember feeling that sense of wonder. I was having lunch with a group of women from my company when it came out that one of them was a weight lifter and the other one was a black belt. I am not sure whether they felt my interest was endearing or psychotic, but I began to pepper both of them with questions. When had she started? What had brought her to that place? How did she keep passionate about it? What role did it play in her personal story?

For the hour we chatted, I couldn’t get enough exploring these aspects of their lives. My weight lifting experience had been limited to a few weeks each spring in high school before the weather was good enough to practice track outside. My husband tried to teach me some rudimentary self-defense, but I was a horrible student and he gave up. Every nuance they shared just brought more questions and then lunch was over and we went our own ways. I could have kept going.

My love of interesting conversations is why I don’t stress at dinner parties. It’s why I enjoy mixers and large group affairs. For every person I find to be a bore there are 100 that have done or learned something so wholly outside of my experience that it is an unlimited buffet of wow. So many conversations to have and interesting people to meet there’s only one problem.

I keep getting invited to 30 minute meetings and nothing interesting can be explored in 1,800 seconds.