Saying something like "How 'bout the Giants?" can break the awkward silence in an elevator or help you avoid discussing your future with dad. It's a short enough phrase that you can yell it repeatedly at your deaf grandfather, but it's meaningful enough that it doesn't even demand a response. It's not even a question, is it? It's like saying "What's up?" when someone passes you in the hall.
So what the hell do you do now that the Super Bowl has passed? Here are some ideas:
Weather: It's such an obvious last resort for conversation, that sometimes people forget it. Unlike football, weather doesn't have an off-season. It's always there. Rain or shine, it's always fodder for small talk. Try these: if it's stormy, go "Ugh, can you believe this weather?" If it's beautiful out, smile big and go "Ooh, can you believe this weather?" Sometimes, you can just point outside and make a face. It gets the point across.
The Weekend: Brief conversation about the weekend can be a great way to fill the air while also keeping your co-workers or classmates emotionally at bay. You know why? Because when you say to an acquaintance, "Any big plans for the weekend?" or "How was your weekend?" you're making it clear to them that you are not friendly enough to already be in the know. Just be careful about your tone you don't want to give the impression that you're genuinely interested! And here's a little bonus tip on how to decipher responses about the weekend: when someone enthusiastically responds, "It was really good!" it means they got laid. If they say something like, "It was nice relaxing " it means they stayed inside and ate a lot of ramen noodles.
Movies: Even if you don't go to the movies, this one is great because you see the trailers on T.V. You know the gist. So just lie. After all, you're not looking for an intellectual discussion on the cinematic value of Ashton Kutcher's latest film. If you're stretching for a minute + of conversation, try pairing this one up with "The Weekend."
Temperature: Not to be confused with "The Weather." This one is about you and how you're out of whack with your surroundings. If you can't think of anything to say to the person next to you, just go, "Is it hot in here?" They'll probably say "Yeah, kind of." If they disagree, tell them it is hot in here and to go fuck themselves.
Death: Most people outside of the funeral home business overlook this one. But death is a great icebreaker and can be a fun way to bring down the overly-cheerful. All you have to do is, every morning, check out the Obituaries section of the New York Times. That way you'll always be armed with a recent death for chewin' the fat. Not only will you be able to have a pocket-sized conversation, but you'll also have the chance to say, "I read it in the Times."