I am not much of a talker. In fact, I prefer head nods or minuscule smiles to extended chatter. When we are at social gatherings my wife often traces the letter “T” surreptitiously on my leg with her finger, as a sign that I should participate in the conversation. “T” means ‘talk’ or risk imminent castration.
Basically, I don’t believe that I have any enthralling stories to tell. Consequently, I have decided to reinvent myself with a more interesting persona. When asked what I do for a living, I now often casually respond that I am a shepherd. The stunned silence that ensues, either allows me to slip away or my questioner to retreat to the bathroom. I am not sure if he is responding to the lunacy of my response or a reaction to the shepherd imagery from Brokeback Mountain.
Sometimes I claim to be a scientist searching for weapons of mass destruction. I do have a degree in Chemistry and can toss out a lot of fake terms like polyphenocarbinol or explosonitrictoxins. Within a few seconds my impressed audience will change the topic of conversation to their favorite American Idol candidate and I can slip out of the spotlight.
My greatest fear is being stuck at a dinner table with strangers and forced to indulge in small talk. I pretend to swallow a pill before the meal and quietly disclose that I take anti-malarial pills to prevent convulsions. I assure the two socialites sitting on either side of me, that if I do faint, they should just administer mouth-to-mouth. I also let it slip that I have a number of unidentifiable African intestinal maladies just before I fake a small sneeze into my napkin. Somehow their chairs simultaneously slide away from me and I am left in blessed isolation.
Another successful technique to reduce mindless chit chat involves demonstrating secret agent behavior. Talking quietly into the sleeve of your jacket as if there was a microphone inside, generally raises eyebrows. Holding your index finger against the entry to your ear also purveys a mysterious and sinister effect that quickly stifles dialogue. It just generates quiet stares and furrowed brows. No one wants to mess with a wacko!
My wife often tries to draw me into the conversation by saying, “Ken, tell them about the time you caught the pickpocket on the Metro in Paris.” I curtly reply, “ I was on the subway in Paris once and caught a guy trying to pick my pocket.” The look of exasperation on her face is identical to the look of President Bush’s press secretary trying to explain another Bush decision or policy
I think that I have finally discovered the perfect rationale to allow me to remain silent and not have to generate inane small talk. I am going to insist that my wife tell everyone that I have taken a vow of silence, in protest. I have chosen not to speak until global warming has been reduced or until world poverty is eliminated Or until I can go to a party and just enjoy the food and wine and not have to babble like a Chatty Cathy Doll when someone pulls my cord.
If you pull my cord, you risk hearing me bleat like a sheep!