Last night, at my wife’s company Christmas party, I was left alone with a table full of auditors. I was on my fourth Michelob Ultra (hey, any port in a storm) and I was feeling a little loose. So I decided on a pretty risky course of action: to participate in the conversation.
The group seemed friendly enough. They were all responsible young professionals — the kind who make a beeline for the food table when arriving in these types of situations (as opposed to the open bar). I said something like, “So, have you guys been keeping up with the Kardashians?”
But instead of polite laughter — which I was hoping for — all I got were looks of bemusement. One of them said, “Are you talking about the television show?” And I said yes, adding that I had only been joking. This seemed to confuse things further, but I took a hard swig of my beer and we pressed on.
I decided next to pretend that I understand how accounting works. The way I went about this was to ask how their end-of-the-year audit was going, then casually drop bits of Excel formulas I’d memorized into the mix. This worked about as well as you would imagine.
Eventually someone asked — as nicely as possible — who I was (a fair question). I explained that I was only affiliated with the company through marriage, then pointed at my wife. She was across the room having a perfectly normal discussion with someone else I didn’t know. I tried to communicate “S.O.S.” to her telepathically.
Then, by the sheer grace of god, one of the auditors inquired as to how she and I met. Gleefully, I let forth with all the details. I expected that afterward they would regale me with stories about how they each met their significant others. Or at least share some humorous anecdotes about recent dating experiences.
Really, I would have accepted anything to fill the silence. Including: sob-filled accounts of lost love… elaborate dissertations on relationship “non-negotiables”… even a philosophical argument over physician-assisted suicide was welcome.
Unfortunately, I learned that all three of my tablemates have made the decision to focus on their careers right now. And while this is something I could get behind normally, it was a great hindrance to my desperate attempts at small talk. So after seriously weighing the pros and cons of introducing euthanasia into the conversation, I figured I should just throw in the towel.
I excused myself to get another drink. Then I strolled over to my wife with the intention of scolding her for not extracting me. Before I could say anything though, she kissed me sweetly and told me how proud she was that she could leave me with total strangers and not have to worry that I’d act like a blithering idiot.
Deflated, I smiled and introduced myself to the head of the marketing department.