Stacey (pseudonym for a Chicana student at my work, thick accent): Why haven't you been at work in so long?
Me: I was in a play!
Stacey: You were playing?
Me: No, I was in a play.
Stacey: [dubiously] Ohhhh.
Me: Do you know what that is? A play?
Stacey: [blank look]
Me: Como un drama.
Stacey: [realization dawning] Oh you mean like with puppets! Only with like, people.
Yeah, folks. That's me. The King Friday of the human beings.
Which, actually might not be too far off the mark, since my friend Brett, who suffers from pupaphobia (Yeah, that's the real word for the fear of puppets) was so disturbed by the picture of me in my "Seussical" Grinch costume that he asked me to remove it from my Facebook profile. I figure I tricked him into watching "Labyrinth" with me, I can oblige him this once.
But I open this post with that conversation primarily to introduce the idea of saying really dumb things. I'm not talking about dumb like what Stacey said, but more dumb like when the fly on the wall is wishing he were anyone else. Do you ever have that experience? You have a captive but not especially captivated audience, and you start to realize there's not really a great ending to this story in sight? Well, my friends, I think I may have found a solution. Check out how much this story I related yesterday was improved by the new technique I like to call "Unexpected Self-Deprecatory BSing" (USDB), and note that the (*) marks the point in the story when I realized how predictable and boring the story was, even to me:
Me: Someone left a box of donuts in my ethics classroom from the previous class today, so I ate one, and soon everyone had taken one. Mine wasn't great, but I'm on this new poverty diet where I lose weight by only eating what I can afford, so I can't turn down free food these days. Anyway, the class weird girl took a bite of hers and then immediately chucked it into the garbage, saying "Yuck! This is gross!" I was so annoyed that she would just throw food away like that. And this is in my ETHICS class, where we're always talking* about how hungry I am, because it's the class right before lunch.
Instead of the bored nods while they waited for me to finish whatever trite thing I was saying so they could say "yeah" and start immediately in on their one-upper stories, I received a peal of laughter from the roommates. Boring story averted. It only worked because a) it made me look like a jerk, and b) in their minds, they had already begun to tune me out, sure as they were that I was going to say what I had actually originally intended to say: that it's a shame to waste food like that when there are so many starving brown children in the world.
Another conversation made me laugh tonight.
America (my roommate's girlfriend, not the entire country, the way Bernie Mac used to talk to all of us): What should I be for Halloween? I have a long black dress.
Chandler (another roommate, famous for his interminable pauses in not-especially scintillating sentences; no seriously, we once clocked him at 9 seconds mid-phrase): Oh, you could totally wear the dress and put a red hourglass on your abdomen, and tell everyone* you're a super hero named, like, "The Hourglass" or something.
I actually thought he was serious for a moment on that one.
All I'm trying to say is, please, friends. Watch for the signs that I am disinterested in your story, so you know when to apply the USDB technique. The signs include, but are not limited to:
1. I leave the room, but mumble "keep going."
2. I fall asleep.
3. I pretend to fall asleep (more common than, but indistinguishable from, #2)
4. You are telling me about a dream you or anyone else had.
5. You started the story with many people listening, but suddenly I am the only one still listening.
6. I start laughing at inappropriate times, and when pressed explain that I was laughing at something someone else said, at a different time.
7. You find you are talking about your pets.
8. I pretend to have lost my signal, even if it's an in-person conversation, and not via cell phone technology.
9. I suddenly offer you food, gum, karaoke, a breath-holding contest, or anything else to otherwise occupy use of your mouth.
10. I start another, better, story, and then when you stop me, I say, "Oh, it was hard to tell if you were finished."
11. You are Mr. Samson, my U.S. History teacher.
Again, if you sense any of the above conditions, that is the perfect time to implement the USDB technique, which also, I just noticed, incidentally stands for "Unforeseeable Suicide for the Deliverance from Banality." Weird.