I meet new people from time to time.
Well, not “new” people, exactly. So far as I know, they’ve all been people for some substantial amount of time. Decades, in most cases. Some of them are actually quite old people, indeed. They’re just new to me.
So. I meet new-to-me people from time to time. And I’d like to stop, because it’s incredibly difficult. Every single little bit of it.
First, I don’t remember names. It’s like a social blind spot. I hear someone saying to me, “Hi, I’m…” And that’s all I get. I’m always so busy being sure to make eye contact and smile and make sure my hands are dry and not reflexively staring at my crotch in a panic to see whether my fly is zipped, I never hear the name. Or see my zipper. It’s a nightmare.
(On the bright side, I can usually play off missing the name, so long as I never, never ever see the person again. It’s when they show up again, socially — if it’s a new neighbor, say, or a mother-in-law or prospective boss on a job interview — that things get sticky. Eventually, I have to call these people something. And they never seem very pleased when my personal nicknames for them come out.
Well, maybe if Porky, Hairpile and Snagglefang would wear a nametag now and then, we wouldn’t have this problem. I don’t see how any of this is my fault, frankly.)
But that’s just the beginning. Then there’s the touching. There’s always some sort of touching, and I never know which kind is appropriate. When do you shake hands? When should you kiss cheeks? Or “pretend to kiss cheeks, but don’t actually touch your lips to my face, you big gangly doofus”?
(As it was once described to me. Rather loudly.
“So I’m always finding myself in the middle of some half-grasped handshake or near-gropey hug, or with my tongue in some strange European’s ear.”
I never know. So I’m always finding myself in the middle of some half-grasped handshake or near-gropey hug, or with my tongue in some strange European’s ear. Never the sexy strange ones, either. It’s always the hairy strange ones that smell like olives and failed national currency.
But that’s not even the worst part. You’d think, after the triumvirate trauma of introductions and greetings and social pawing, that the horror would be over. But no. Then it gets personal — because next comes the questioning.
Many questions are possible. “How’s it going?” “Do you come here often?” “Did you know your fly is wide open?” But there’s one you can always count on:
“So, what do you do?”
Maybe this is fine, if you do something that most people have ever heard of. If you plumb, say, or lawyate or buttle. These are easy enough answers. But I don’t have one of those jobs. So I have to guess how much or little to describe, based on how familiar I think my new acquaintance will be with the field.
Obviously, I’m always wrong. So answering “what do you do?” usually goes something like this:
Me: I work for an epigenetics company.
New Person: Ah. And what’s that?
Me: Well, you know about genetics?
New Person: Not really, no.
Me: It’s like that. Only more meta.
New Person: Oh. Um… oh.
Me: I’m a bioinformatics programmer.
New Person: So… is that a computer thing?
Me: Yeah. Mostly, it is.
New Person: Ooh, can you help me set up my printer?
Me: Sorry, that’s not really my area.
New Person: So you’re not very good at your job.
Me: Yeah. Probably not.
Me: I sit at a desk all day and fiddle with spreadsheets.
New Person: You a stockbroker?
New Person: Financial analyst?
New Person: Tax preparer?
New Person: Did you go to business school?
New Person: Well, thank god for that, anyway. Chin up, pumpkin.
Screw it, I give up. I’m not meeting anyone ever again. If I know you, I’ll be happy to see you again soon. If I don’t — and if you can’t have the common decency to impersonate someone I already know — then I’m sorry. I’m done. No more meeting. Kaput.
Unless you wear a name tag. And don’t touch me. And just assume I’m unemployed.
So basically, just like the people who already know me. You’re already fitting in!Permalink | No Comments