There are a lot of situations that make me uncomfortable. Partly because I am innately sensitive to social discomforts and partly because I was raised by a light-hating dungeon hermit and grew up hating everything before I learned to like it. Thus, when I’m out and about in the world, it’s safe to assume I’d rather be home and when people are talking to me, it’s safe to assume I’d rather be on a laptop on my couch, wrestling with my cat as she tries to lie across my keyboard.
Last night for example, I went to one of Dave’s open mics (with laptop in tow), only to find a private party of fifty people crowding the room and I had to *wince* move through the crowd of people to get to the other side of the bar and some of their arms and shoulders brushed me a little bit and had to have a beer just to come down.
Then I got to the bar, I shit you not, the only available seat was directly beside a grown man in a vampire cape.
And that’s why I struggle. Because in addition to experiencing regular social inconveniences and anxieties at a more intense level than your average Jane, I also tend to attract grown men in vampire capes.
As it turned out, he was there for the open mic and plays the keyboard. With a house funk beat. With the cape on.
I often get stuck in situations like these. I struggle to maintain casual conversation with the averagest of bears without my stomach squirting high octane nerve juice into my bloodstream. Trapped at the bar where my choices are intimate conversation with an adult Dracula impressionist or a room of fifty tight-collared strangers? Just tranquilize me.
I opted for the vampire, obviously. He was actually pretty nice. When the other side of the bar cleared of the private party, I holed up at my favorite spot in the back where I could hook up my laptop and listen to the open mic. It works out perfectly because no one bothers me but I can also claim that I’m out in the world being social. It’s kind of perfect.
Except for last night. Last night I attracted a talker.
Usually I’m pretty good at spotting them when they don’t easily identify themselves with capes. At first I thought the table beside my was being used as a gig bag spot; there were backpacks and plastic bags and totes of all shapes and sizes. But then there was a helmet. And a person walking toward it all with a sense of territory. I’d made a terrible mistake.
But my laptop was already on, my fries and drink already settled; to pack up and move to the other side of the room would perhaps have been even worse than sticking it out. So I stayed.
Sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me. I kept my head down, knowing what would happen if I dared to make eye contact for even a moment, but the pull was just too strong and for a second my eyelids flitted up and then it happened: he talked.
I’m actually able to endure a talker for quite a while. I can throw a few general responses in there to keep them going, and I’m pretty good at making up something that sounds fitting in the unexpected lulls where they’re anticipating a genuine response. But I can only do it for about ten minutes before I fear I’ve become visibly uncomfortable. I know I’m like a ticking time bomb in those moments; I can either exit the situation or make it incredibly obvious that I’m overwhelmingly rude and live like Gollum in a cave of carpet and cheese curls at home with my cats and can’t endure human contact for significant periods of time.
Just when I was considering sending Dave the emergency signal (“David, get me out of here or I’ll lose my shit in front of God and all these people”…it’s something like an ear tug or a nose wiggle or scooping my eye out with a soup spoon; I can never remember when I’m all angsty), I was sent an angel in the form of a friend. Let’s call him Petey. Petey is a friend with warm, inviting eyes, a hearty handshake and a face that makes you feel comfortable talking if you’re a talker.
So I left him there to rot.
I almost felt bad for a second, but the feeling of release was too euphoric to sense the guilt. I thought long and hard like Pooh Bear about every time I endured a talker as an act of martyrdom for my friends or for blog fodder or because I simply felt bad for the poor bastard. I figured I’d paid my dues and it was high time I bow out and soak up the win. So I stared at my screen and pretended to be working on something very, very important.
Actually, in the time I observed I learned some new tactics.
Petey’s survival rate is about six minutes, to my ten. So after five he does this really great thing that I’m going to start giving a go: he responds to everything with a clever exit line until one works. For every new topic the talker introduced, Petey had a line straight from a sitcom. The talker could have been in the middle of detailing his great aunt’s battle with cancer and Petey would boldly attempt, “Well, sometimes cancer gets ya!” as he inches a little closer to the door.
It’s really impressive.
Ultimately, however, the talker won. Never sensing the “goodbye moment” attached to Petey’s one-liners, he droned on and on, never sticking to one subject, never really eliciting a response – just…talking. And that’s when Petey simply pulled out his pipe, stuffed it with tobacco, mumbled something or other about a smoke, and unapologetic acquainted himself with the exit.
That’s when it hit me: I should take up smoking.
Honestly, I’ve considered high-tailing it a number of times to the local convenience store to snag myself a pack of all-around-excusers. But there’s no way to guarantee that the talker isn’t also a smoker, in which case all I’ll do is double down and take my situation from being trapped in a bar to being trapped in a somewhat-intimate smoke break wherein I don’t smoke.
Talk about awkward.
So I’m taking suggestions. What are your favorite ways to escape a talker? I know you do it. And you’re going to fork over your secrets or I’m going to take up smoking. You don’t want me to die of cancer, do you?
…Well, then again, sometimes cancer gets ya. ♣