It’s Time for Me to Start Smoking

28 Aug

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.

This is about right.

This is about right.

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.

Babies have it so easy. I should have taken advantage of this more as a youngin.

Babies have it so easy. I should have taken advantage of this more as a youngin.

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. 


41 Responses to “It’s Time for Me to Start Smoking”

  1. They Call Me Jane August 28, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    What beers did you try? 🙂 Me being from Germany, …where there’s aisles in the supermarket that only have variations of beers, I’m thinking…you may have picked the wrong one.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Everything. Lots of them, all the time. I know I really hate hoppy ones and then from there it’s really just a matter of improving to “can stomach it”


  2. They Call Me Jane August 28, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Then again, you could just swiftly make an excuse to go to the bathroom and then escape through the bathroom window. I saw that in the Big Bang Theory. …The result isn’t always ideal though:


  3. memo2meblog August 28, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Sooo basically after a point I just start agreeing with everything the person says because I know that if I argue then the conversation will just keep on going. Then I make my getaway! If they’re like “The sky is orange,” I’m all, “Oh, you’re completely right. Hey, speaking of orange I have to get some orange juice from the store. See you later!”


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      This is similar to the exit line strategy, which I’ve seen be very effective. I’m on board.


  4. itg3tsb3tter August 28, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    When they look away, run. Or tell them “Sorry, my herpes are flaring up, gotta go.”


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      But then I kind of have herpes according to them and that has a tendency to spread around.

      Social circles, not genitalia.

      Although also genitalia.


  5. philosophermouseofthehedge August 28, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Funny post. You could say, “oh, my ankle monitor is buzzing – they know I’m out” Then either move away quickly and add “they will be mad if they find out I just tossed in my purse.”


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      This is a good tactic for actually getting me out of the room altogether. And I like that instead of suggesting that I might murder them, I just lead them to believe that I’ve perhaps already murdered. Very good indeed.


  6. Dyl August 28, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Dear Jackie,
    At least you don’t get hit on by hobos. (Maybe you do?) Well, it’s weird. This is experience talking. Also, I feel like you would greatly enjoy this…


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      I fully support random (consented) fondlings if it leads to food.


  7. Lynn Harris August 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Answer: “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom. By myself.” Then stay there for a long time.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Excellent. If I’m feeling daring enough, I could pack up all my things and take them with me so I can exit through the window like a bad date.


  8. Jules August 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    ” 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. ”

    I’m already laughing heartily.

    “Then I got to the bar, I shit you not, the only available seat was directly beside a grown man in a vampire cape. ”

    Then this happens and my sides shot out of Earth’s orbit. I’m dying right now.

    Why do I find this so hilarious? I used to have this exact social anxiety. It has been a while since I felt it, but I guess you can say I grew out of it. Thanks for the reminder.

    As for tips regarding smoothly exiting talkers. You could pretend to have IBS! :>


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Two bowel related tactics suggested now. Just below “suggest murderous intent” in the rankings. Very interesting


  9. addercatter August 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    I generally make myself unapproachable… I’m not sure exactly how I do it, I think I am so wrapped up in my own anxiety and so focused on trying to keep breathing, that I might appear bitchy or snobby… but whatever. It works… uusually.

    If someone manages to break through my barrier, I have a few different tactics. If I’m sitting alone somewhere… bleachers at my son’s ballgame, for example, I sit on the end and put an item (a bag, a scarf, sweatshirt etc) on the spot next to me so that no one can sit beside me. Most people assume the seat is being saved for someone else.

    I never, ever look anyone in the eye. Also, I always have my earphones with me. If someone approaches me, I can pretend I don’t notice them, and they think I’m listening to music and just don’t hear them.

    If all else fails, (having my smartphone or laptop in front of me) I make an excuse such as “I’m sorry, I am really stressed out right now. I have this deadline to meet and I don’t have time to talk.”


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Okay. No eye contact – that was definitely a mistake on my part. I’m just so curious. I did, however, gadget myself out last night (laptop and phone) and still got interrupted several times. I’ll have to work on my bitchy resting face


  10. Katherine Gordy Levine August 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Excessive talkers are rude, probably anxious, but also inconsiderate. So I feel free to do my three step dance. For you in the above situation that means:

    First step, said sincerely and kindly, “Sorry, I have work to do, you need to find a better audience.”

    Second step: repeat first step but not so kindly.

    Third step: With a bit of anger, “What part of I have work to do did you miss? I am going to have to stop trying to be kind and will now be ignoring you.?”

    As a part of each step when you have had your say hone on your screen and type away. With the third step, actually turn you back on blabber mouth.

    Hope this gives you another tool.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      I don’t know if I could pull this off without feeling terribly awkward while doing it, but I’m sure that when I’m infuriated enough to consider the (three and counting now!) suggestions of murderous intent others brought to the table as options, this will seem like child’s play. Thanks for the suggestion!


  11. bikerchick57 August 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Have you tried eating lots of gassy foods before you go out? That might give you a nice, wide berth wherever you go and would keep the talkers away.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      Okay I might put this toward the list of more desperate measures, but effectiveness counts for something.


  12. pegoleg August 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    “The clever exit line” -exactly! Why did I never think of it that way before? That’s what I generally do, but you’re so right – the inveterate talker just waves those off like so many tiny gnats. If it’s at my office, we’re all trained by the frantic, I’m-trapped-pleading-grimace to immediately summon that person to an important phone call. Out in the world, though, there’s always the bathroom.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      I think a code gesture or face is a great tactic. Dave and I have gotten better at this, but sometimes it’s kind of delightful to watch the struggle from the outside as well.


  13. frodoblk August 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    OK here are a few things to try. Scream fire (ants). Run out the door like you are on fire. If that doesn’t work stab him in the eye.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Stabbing! That makes three murder suggestions. Excellent.


  14. gregschina August 29, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    A friend of mine was getting hit on by this incredibly persistent girl all night, she wouldn’t leave him alone and he was not feeling it. After he couldn’t take it any more he just look at her with a dead pan expression and said “I could totally kill you if I wanted to. Nobody would know.” Suffice to say she left him well alone after that. Maybe give that one a try?


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      This is hilarious. And the second murder-themed suggestion. I’m on board.


  15. Jusbcuz Dezins August 29, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    So loving your post, & also the comments can honestly say haven’t had to deal with that much at all, a few times in my home, when a friend visits for 5 hrs before she has to go to work, gets a little stressful


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Have a yard sale sometime. That’ll draw them out. 😉


  16. Georgia's Bath Products August 31, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    A pair of earphones on your ears without having anything playing generally works. It seems like you’re preoccupied then, but you can hear what’s going on/being said in the room then. If you seriously don’t want to interact I saw a funny post somewhere that said to look at the person in shock and whisper “You can see me?” Then take your exit. I love the previous comment about the guy stopping that girl. That would definitely work for you too, I think. Lol.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      I’ve gotta do the earbuds more often, for sure. But I have to say it’s not always effective. Talkers have been oversaturated with the tactic so many of them have adapted and simply try to break through.


  17. mllaurie September 3, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    I always attract scary people at the train station. Usually I walk away or pretend to take a phone call. If I can’t do that, I say, “Desolee, mais, je ne parle pas l’anglais, trou de cul.” (Sorry, I don’t speak English, asshole.) Ok, I’ve never actually said that, but I might next time.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      I can do some decent Spanish but then I run the risk of them actually understanding and then talking to me more but in a language I only partially understand. Actually, that sounds like an improvement. I’m in.


      • pegoleg September 11, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

        This is absolutely brilliant. But you need to make the language a lot more obscure. Say “I from Belarus. Ne razumeyu English.” If your tormentor happens to be a Belarusian immigrant, well, you’re screwed.


  18. Ice_Badger September 4, 2013 at 4:36 am #

    I recently threatened to kill everyone in a train carriage if people didn’t stop standing so close to me that they poked me with their Burger King bag!
    well…I thought I was being subtle, I was with friend and someone had been walking along the train station so close to us that they kept touching my shoulder when I accidentally shouted “WHY?” (i intended this to be followed with “are you walking so close to me” but managed to stop myself as it was supposed to stay in my head but got blurted out.)

    The same person then came and stood really really close on the train, it was busy, but not that busy. I was trying to figure out a way to make them go away…i tried subtly moving over but they followed…
    so I said (casually I thought) to my friend opposite me “you can see why people snap and start killing people can’t you when everyone is so packed together”
    apparently I said this in my loud announcement voice…

    It worked though…I got more space and a few odd looks…


    • Ice_Badger September 4, 2013 at 4:37 am #

      the point of that was…I can’t imagine how badly I would deal with a talker :-S


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Ah yes – frighten them with the slight air of murder. excellent.


  19. Reheated Coffee September 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I once had to wait for a guy to pause just long enough that I could say, I’m so sorry, I really need to run to the restroom. Then, I hid out in the bathroom for way longer than any human would need to go to the bathroom. When I came out, he had latched onto my friend who proceeded to do exactly what I had just done and run into the bathroom. We felt bad, but it seemed the only resort. People will always let you go to the bathroom. If necessary, add a little pee-pee dance for effect. No one will question you.


    • Jackie September 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      I like the buddy system combined with the bodily function excuse. Good one.


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