Due to the nature of my research, I often have to be in and around the community. Since I run student research teams this means that I spend a fair amount of time traveling around in cars with my students. They usually drive because (a) I mostly walk to work, (b) I'm a much better navigator than I am a driver, and (c) their cars are generally nicer than mine.
Riding in cars with students provides for a different type of interaction and conversation. Most of my team are on a first name basis with me (although for a few it just doesn't feel right and they prefer to use Dr. Brigindo) and are comfortable talking about personal as well as professional issues. But there is something about spending time in a car that brings relationships to a new level. I think that's why I enjoy road trips so much. Parents often report that the best communication with their children happens in cars and I definitely miss the quality car time I had with Boy before he got his drivers' license.
This week three of my students and I had to make several trips to help out my colleague who is in the hospital after a traffic accident. He is a loved professor to my students and we were running errands for him and visiting him in the hospital. The talk in the car was about him and his accident to some extent but we also spent a lot of time talking about their next steps in life. All three of them are graduating in a month and are on the job market. I like to sit back and listen to them talk about what they want to do, their fears of taking the next step, and their concerns with the interview process. They are great at supporting each other and sharing advice.
I have found out that two of my students were "nerdy readers" when they were growing up and I enjoy discussing literature--what we read as adolescents, what we read now--with them. I'm surprised by how much we talk about cars on these trips. That was definitely a favorite topic of Boy but I always attributed that to his being an adolescent male.
It's not really any particular conversation that I like but more the type of conversation. It's easy and fluid and can be about anything.