Frequently, at my job, I am around people that I have met but don't really know. When I am in a situation where I am with them for any more than a second, one or the other of us feels the need to say something, the unspoken idea being that it is polite to acknowledge the other person's existence. More often than not, the topic of conversation will be the weather.
However, I can't help feeling like a cliche when I or the other person does this. Is there is absolutely no other topic that I or this person can think of to bridge the troubled waters of a few moments of silence? While it is absolutely the definition of polite conversation (has anyone ever said to you, "I am offended that you think it's sunny outside"?), it seems to me that the initiator is doing nothing more than speaking what is plainly and painfully obvious, something that is, therefore, unnecessary to discuss. The person saying it may as well be pointing out some other obvious aspect of the immediate surroundings, like this:
(Setting: Five seconds of awkward silence in a company's lunch room, until-)
Person 1: This is a table!
Person 2: It certainly is a table!
Person 1: It wasn't like this in here last week, what with the table and all.
Person 2: I wonder if this table is ever going to change?
Person 1: Well, you know how it is living in San Diego!
Person 1 and Person 2: (Laugh awkwardly, until-)
It is at these times, that I, while engaged by another human being in conversation, feel the most alone. I would almost rather the person exclaim "I see you and I am privy to the fact that you are indeed a different person, unique and separate from myself!" before hurriedly rushing out of the room. At least then my life would be more like a post-modern play, and who doesn't want that?
Therefore, I will make it a point to engage in conversation first, with simple pleasantries like "Good morning!", "Good afternoon!", or "So's your old man!" in the hopes of avoiding things that are too obvious to speak about. For a longer term goal, I will make it a point to figure out at minimum what department everyone's in so that I can ask them how things are in that department. This will, I hope, convey the fact that I know who they are and what they do, and, while being at the barest of bones level, this will also let them know that somebody knows something about them.
And, at least I won't be talking about the weather.
10 hours ago