BUSHWHACKED| OPINION, SEPTEMBER 1, 2017

Gawd I hate waiting rooms.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s at the vets, the doctor surgery, the dentist or Centrelink. It’s all the same.

I feel trapped and for reasons I have never been able to think through, I am a chat magnet.

People just turn towards me and start talking, talking, talking. About absolutely nothing usually. But it often turns out to seem they breathe through their ears to keep their lungs inflated and words flying through the air like a broken fire hydrant.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good chat and have never been accused of not speaking up. But this is different. This is just verbal incontinence.

It was once pointed out to me that if I was in a group of five people walking along a city footpath, I was always the one the beggars and the Hare Krishnas would target. You have no idea how many enlightening vegetarians’ feasts I’ve been invited to.

And it always turns out uncomfortable.

Here’s an example. Mrs Whacked and I stepped off a tourist bus outside the Colosseum on a trip we’d dreamed about for years.

A pack of shrill junk sellers set on us like flies on a cow pat: “Here missus, you buy scarf. Buy wood dish. Buy umbrella. Buy. Buy. Buy.”

I could see Mrs Whacked was getting distressed and just wanted to run, so I said – rather sternly for me – “Please leave us alone.”

One of the junk pushers snapped: “Well! There’s no need to be rude!”

While it may well be that I have something in my behaviour which attracts such people, it’s the non-stop talkers which end up with me clenching my buttocks and screaming inside my head: “Just. Shut. Up. Stop. Talking! Puhlease!”

It happened in a Bendigo veterinary waiting room this week.

We were waiting quietly, chatting to ourselves when an elderly woman nearby just turned to us and began venting: “Nice dog. What breed? Mine’s a Labrador-spaniel cross which can be nice but he has internal issues and I thought it was just a blocked bottom but it turned out to be … (blah blah) .. I’ve had an op on mine and so I said to Robbie, I said, that’s because of the red (blah blah) .. but he never listens, and you can’t blame him because of that wife of his who’s unable to (blah blah) … and then he turns to me and says …”

Mrs Whacked caught my eye and very subtly raised an eyebrow … before she announced she had to go to the loo.

Mrs Whacked has a theory that people have a set number of words to use each week and that sometimes it’s simply your turn to help them fill their quota.

This blast of verbage is actually a thing which has been studied over the years.

No one is yet sure of what it is. Some say it’s a mental disorder. Some say it’s just a mechanism to control others or to cover a sad inability to genuinely communicate. That is, to listen as well as speak.

It has been said from time to time that uncontrolled prattlers are women, but that’s not so, according to a University of Arizona psychology professor who braved the torrent to discover that on average, women use 16,215 words a day and men average 15,699.

It must be noted that these were Americans and as John Cleese commented in the charming film Fierce Creatures “You Americans have so many words.”

The most talkative, who used 47,000 words a day, was a bloke.

WAYNE GREGSON