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damage control

The question

We live in a 40-unit condo, centred around a moderate-sized pool. It’s a very pleasant village-style arrangement. The people living there are mostly retired professionals (doctors, lawyers, professors, business owners). The problem is that a hazard lurks at the pool: a particular owner who camps there for the day and insists on talking and talking and talking to whichever poor soul ventures within earshot.

Maybe she’s bored at home, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, she won’t let silence reign before, during or after one’s swim. She does not go away from June to September. Others, despite pining for a swim, don’t. It has pretty much become her private domain. Ideas before next summer?

The answer

Over-chattiness can be a problem.

As can under-chattiness, of course. Someone who just won’t return the ball. I don’t know why, but this one particular encounter remains stuck in my cerebellum. It was a holiday party (this sort of thing is going to come into sharper relief as the holidays approach), and my very witty and insightful friend Patrick and I were just throwing gold (if I say so myself) at this one dude.

And the dude was all like: “Uh-huh. Huh, you don’t say. Hmm, well, I suppose.”

Dropping balls like a bad juggler. He drained us. Mentally, he bled us white. He was an energy vampire, and after our encounter with him, I had to go lie down.

At the other end of the spectrum, it can be far from pleasant to be cornered near the canapés by a party bore with crumbs in his beard, possibly spraying them on you, as he bounces endless conversational ping-pong balls off your dome.

Again, one encounter sticks in my limbic system as emblematic of many. The party bore literally had me cornered. I was standing in the three-foot gap between the canapé table and a wall; he’d blocked off all chance of egress as he hit me with his ping-pong balls.

To me, the hallmark of the party bore is they talk at you. They don’t listen. Your eyes can be glazed over, you can be dancing from foot to foot with boredom, yet they drone on and on. The sound of their own voices is like the most mellifluous, melodious, Mozartian symphony to them.

And don’t even get me started on the office-meeting bore. You can feel your life force being sucked into the ceiling vents as their monologues become soliloquies and they nearly tear up at the sheer beauty of the sound of their own voices.

Such a lost art is conversation that when I find someone who will a) listen, b) return the ball and c) maybe throw in the odd joke, I fasten that person to me with hoops of steel.

(In an ideal, fantastical, Utopian, almost science-fictional world, I might even stipulate they not peek at their phones during our conversation, but lately I’m thinking I may have to give up on that one. Just let it go, Dave. Inhale, exhale, and let it go.)

While I’ve never heard of a poolside bore before, it’s certainly plausible, and I can picture it: Botox-infused forehead that never moves; orangey tan; long, thin, mentholated cigarettes; oversized sunglasses and collagen-filled lips perpetually flapping.

(Write back if I got even close.)

But here’s the good news. You have a perfect poolside-bore-avoidance resource at your disposal: the pool itself!

The pool gives you a purpose to be there. The problem with attempting to avoid a party bore is that the whole point of a party is to stand around and chat. So it’s hard to say: “I’m sorry but I’m no longer going to stand here and chat. I’m going to go over there and stand and chat.”

Hurtful. But in your case you can say, “Hi, I’m just here for a swim.” Dive in. Problem solved.

Another bonus? You can’t hear underwater, so even if she’s still talking, you’re oblivious.

When you get out, towel off and skedaddle. “I’ve got a meeting” or some such. Sadly, you won’t be able to sit around and tan, but maybe you can do that somewhere else.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.