The Bat Signal


socially-awkwardI was sitting in a pub the other day, reading. I had a nice whiskey in front of me and was enjoying the warm and cozy  comfort of a little pub on a chilly night and a good book. Perfect. Almost.

At the table across from me, a couple was obviously on a first date. They were American, and so spoke with a volume and crispness that allowed everyone in this section of Prague to hear them. I tried to pay attention to my book, but English has a way of invading my bubble and so they were a consistent background to Ray Bradbury.

The man talked a lot about himself and he didn’t listen at all. There were lots of points he could have used to learn more about her, but just didn’t. And then he did it. He started talking about the last girl he was in love with. He goes on to tell her – in a mildly bitter tone – the story, his profession of love, her exactly not professing her love, all the way up until the culmination of her choosing his friend Bret over him.

The woman had long stop making sounds other than the occasional “Oh yeah,” or “Ahhh,” or “Ouch,” and I couldn’t see her face, but I could feel her pain. If ever I had felt the need to go extract a person from a conversation, this was it. I just wished I could help her out of this terribly awkward scenario.

There are any number of social situations in which people find themselves wishing for intervention or, more likely, extraction. Bad conversations, bad chemistry, socially inept companions. We, on the awkward side of social interactions, need to stand together and help each other out!

I have one friend who doesn’t seem to understand the elements of a story: idea, narrative, plot, action, ending. She sort of just tells me sweeping tales of that morning’s coffee break and epic sagas of the time a few days before when she put on her shoes. If someone could have sensed my pain, they might have pulled me out of there or at least explained the elements of narrative.

Then there are the many zillions of physical invasions that people don’t even realize they are doing. I’m talking spit-talkers, leg space invaders, those who don’t understand their elbows. There are skinny people who sit too far from the table and keep you pressed up against yours. And we won’t even tap the juicy vein that is the close talker. I am thinking that an etiquette lesson would help these folks out.

Who is going to help people deal with others who don’t seem to understand social cues. Despite the amount of times you try to change the subject away from you friend’s work woes, mention how tired you are, or say you won’t have another drink, there are people out there who just don’t get it. A third party might cause a distraction so that an escape is allowed. This is worst when it’s a conversation you don’t want to have with someone you don’t want to be talking to – a colleague you bumped into, a student who’s explaining their absence. It’s times for those of us who see others stuck in awkward situations to help out our fellow sufferers.

We need a bat signal.

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