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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Verbal Intercourse: It's Non-Interruptus

Time is money, we experienced capitalists always say, and we always say it really fast, as we're dashing out the door on the way to our next conquest. Other things we like to say are: Give it to me in 10 words or less, Get to the point, Put it in a nutshell, Just the facts, Make it snappy, and so on and so forth.


Until these phrases are translated and sold in pamphlets at the Moscow metro, many foreigners will find themselves occasionally at the mercy of one of the most daunting of national traditions: the Russian monologue. It's a powerful cultural thing.


Russians are gifted talkers. They have a colorful language, interesting lives, and in some cases, a lot of time to spend telling their stories blow by digressive blow.


And if you have two ears and a facial expression that is anything less than ferocious, you will at some point find yourself helplessly caught up in a saga that starts with the price of parsley, moves on to sick relatives and airplane tickets, and ends sometime later with a discourse on Jack London. If it ends at all.


In more sound bite-oriented cultures we know that if you've got something to say and you want people to listen, you have got to say it fast and, if possible, phrased in the form of a music video. Our attention spans are just not that long.


And it's not quite certain that an attention span is actually what's required of a person under the spell of a Russian talker. They don't require a lot of reinforcement; a nod here, a roll of the eyes there, and you've basically fulfilled your role.


If, however, role fulfillment is not what you're after, you've got to take the bull by the horns. There is no easy way to extricate yourself from such a situation, although I must say that just walking away seems a lot less rude than it used to. The voice will get louder as you walk away, but no one ever seems to get truly offended by a break for freedom.


The other thing you can do is interrupt. This is how Russians seems to do it between themselves, so there's no reason why a foreigner can't join in, albeit at a slower tempo.


It's easy. They talk. You interrupt, in a louder voice than they are using. You talk. They interrupt, in an even louder voice.


This goes on until the maximum decibel level has been reached and everyone involved is exhausted. This can take a while, and usually any foreigners in the vicinity at the time can be found hiding under the table or in another room reading a book.


Climb out from under the table, strike up an attitude, and shout away. Like all aberrations in the Russian character, long-windedness is really a fabulous form of release.