I was on the Tribune's web site the other day looking for even more coverage of the fact that Charlie Weis is keeping his job, I came across an even more enthralling and relevant article entitled "How to Escape at Holiday Parties." Since I plan on attending several holiday parties over the course of the next 67 years, 4 months, and 8 days, I figured, shit, I better take a look.
Despite the title, there is nothing in the article about pina coladas, trap doors, getting caught in the rain, smoke clouds, making love at midnight, or jumping safely from a second floor window when, after drinking fourteen White Russians, you've just accidentally stabbed the host's cat 26 times because you were convinced it was the Predator.
In reality, the article was not about the physical escape from the premises or the application of Rupert Holmes songs to holiday parties, but rather about how to escape a less-than-enthralling conversation, with suggestions from some dude named Debra Fine and another dude named Marianne Rowe-Dimas (who I would undoubtedly call San Dimas if I hung out with him). People do it to me all the time, so it's about time I learned some tricks of the trade. I was a bit disappointed with the suggestions in the article. They went in progression from the easy conversation to leave to the conversation where the chick talking to you will just not shut up about how she doesn't have a gag reflex.
Rowe-Dimas: "Well, the most obvious is, 'It was very nice meeting you. I enjoyed our conversation.' " You don't have to have a reason to leave. But if that bothers you, there is always 'I have to freshen my drink,' or 'I really want to try some of the food.' "
--I have never said, "I enjoyed your conversation" to anyone, nor has anyone ever muttered those words to me. Because people don't talk like robots from the Victorian era.
--"I have to freshen my drink"? That is not an out because the person talking to you will simply say, "Me too. I'll go over there with you. Don't you love drinks? I do. And I love talking to you. And looking at you. And drinking while talking to you. And looking at you."
--"I really want to try some of the food." Okay, but there's not any food at the party. You might as well say, "You remember Vicky from Small Wonder? She's my mother. But here's the catch: Jamie Lawson is my father. Yes, I am an inbred cyborg. As such, you can understand why, if I don't go plug myself in right now, I will die."
Fine: "You're not supposed to cut them off altogether. 'I need to catch up with so-and-so,' is one way to do it. Also, 'Do you know anyone who is a whatever, an empty nester, a journalist'—that way, they have to say 'I don't know' or they go find you that person, or it gives them the hint that you're looking for someone else."
--You're NOT supposed to cut them off altogether? Isn't the goal of these suggestions to alienate everyone at the party?
--"I need to catch up with so-and-so." Why you would ever say "so-and-so" instead of a real person's name is beyond me. Terrible advice.
--As far as the last piece of advice, that might one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, because you are actually inviting more conversation. When I'm at a party and I ask someone, "Do you know anyone who was in the Quad City DJs?," I'm not expecting them to say "No, let me go find that person." I'm expecting them to say, "No, why do you ask?" What do I say then? "Me neither. No reason. Bye."? And God forbid they respond to my initial question, "Funny you should ask. I am C.C. Lemonhead." Then what?
Rowe-Dimas: "If you recognize someone across the room you want to talk to, then say so. 'I need to catch the host while they're available.' That's perfectly acceptable."
--"Catch the host while they're available"? It's their fucking house. They're available the whole night! You might as well hold up your index finger and say, "I hate to stop you mid-sentence," and then abruptly walk away.
Fine: "It's good to give someone a warning—use the phrase like 'One last question before I go' or 'One thing I need to know before I leave ...' That way you're engaging them but you're letting them know you have to end this. If they're oblivious and lack good manners, if they're just babbling—'Gosh, you are passionate, but I have to go and see those people about something.' "
--Are you serious with the "one more thing" bit? Maybe to come off as a big a prick as possible, you should follow either "One last question before I go" or "One thing I need to know before I leave" with "What is wrong with you? At what point in your life did you become the guy that spends seventeen minutes telling a complete stranger about his son's botched circumcision? Seriously, did you take classes on how not to effectively participate in conversations at holiday parties? Oh, I guess that was three questions. Lawson out." And if he gives you any shit about it, remind him that you are a cyborg.
--"If they're oblivious and lack good manners"? What if they're aware and lack good manners? Or oblivious and impeccably mannered?
--"Gosh, you are passionate, but I have to go and see those people about something." Sweet fucking Christ. "Gosh, you are just an adorable little moron, aren't you? But an impassioned moron. I'm going to go talk to other people about other subjects. Promise me something: don't ever lose that passion, okay buddy? Here's a chew toy."
Rowe-Dimas: "You can grab someone walking by and say 'I really want you to meet this person.' Or you can lead them to a group of people you say you want them to meet. Stay in the group a short time, then excuse yourself. It takes practice."
--"You can grab someone walking by and say 'I really want you to meet this person.'" Ahh, the old switcheroo. "Hey Bill. I'm glad I stopped you. Have you met Sally? She's also a human. And boy is she passionate. I'm sure you guys will have a lot to talk about while I freshen my drink and catch the host or hostess while he or she is available."
-- Or you can lead them to a group of people you say you want them to meet. Stay in the group a short time, then excuse yourself. "Over there is Terry Auerbach, captain of the swim team. That's Carl Phillips, editor of the Daily Faberian. And . . . Clayton, Sydney, Jugdish, Mohammed, Lonny." "We already met." "Super! Then you'll have lots to talk about."
As you can see (as is usual with these types of articles), the suggestions are not grounded in reality at all. There is one and only one out during a holiday party: "Those mini-quiches aren't sitting well, so I'm going to hit the shitter before I shart in my pants. Nice meeting you."