Charlie Hatton About This
About Me
Email Me

Bookmark
 FeedBurnerEmailTwitterFacebookAmazon
Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



All Quotes
HomeAboutArchiveBestShopEmail

  |  

Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Secret Wordshake

Talking to people is hard.

Mostly, this isn’t the peoples’ fault. People are generally easy, except the ones who aren’t, and most of those wind up in prison or law school or get shipped off to Washington to argue with each other. The real problem is all of the darned rules.

I’ll explain.

When conversing with another human being, there are at least three sets of guidelines you have to keep in mind at all times:

1. Society’s rules. These are dictated by the time and place and sometimes street on which you live, and there are a lot of them, and you’re expected to automagically know them all, based on what the people around you are doing.

“Should you shake hands to greet someone? Bump chests? Kiss cheeks? Tongue, or no tongue?”

Do other people make eye contact when they chat? But not too much eye contact? Do they greet strangers on the street, or no? Should you shake hands to greet someone? Bump chests? Kiss cheeks? Tongue, or no tongue? And exactly how much tongue? Is it different for, say, greengrocers versus your grandma? These are all important questions.

In certain situations, the rules go even further. If you find yourself in a group wearing powdered wigs and talking in high German voices about the opera season, then you may have traveled back in time (and space) to 18th century Vienna or thereabouts. Or you’ve stumbled into the fringes of a Napoleonic War reenactment. Or your friends throw some really hinky parties. You should probably get new friends. Fast.

2. Your rules.

You’re weird. Well, maybe you’re not weird, but I’m weird, and have my own set of guidelines for dealing with people. I’m assuming you probably do, too — because I’m weird, but I’m not that weird.

And so, you prefer to keep conversation partners on your left, because that’s your good ear or your better pinching hand or you always flee to the right from danger. Or maybe you refuse to discuss that time when Sri Lanka won the cricket World Cup in ’96, because the wound is still too fresh. Or you don’t like having your cheeks licked.

Whatever your oddball peccadilloes, they’re always in the back of your mind. You steer the conversation toward some, away from others, and entirely off a cliff to avoid the worst. Your reasons are yours alone and rarely, if ever, discussed or even acknowledged. Meanwhile, there are…

3. The rules of whomever you’re talking with.

One-on-one or in a group, the folk(s) yapping back at you have their own foibles, freakshows, dos and don’ts. You don’t know theirs, and they don’t know yours. Maybe their uncle was the nose hair trimmer for that Sri Lankan team, and the tale of those plucky (yeah, you see what I did there) cricketeers is topic numero uno on their lips.

That’s nobody’s fault. But it’s damned awkward. And hard. Talking is hard.

So I’ve decided to make it easier. I’ve devised a verbal passcode, a test — a secret wordshake — to allow certain conversations to circumvent all these restrictions and pitfalls and pecking orders. A shared message that indicates those things are unnecessary — let’s relax our silly rules for the moment, and screw whatever society wants us to do this week, and have a genuine conversation. Maybe a laugh. No wigs, licks, no cricket — unless you’re into those things. And then that’s definitely what we’ll be talking about.

Of course, the message was key. I’m a certain kind of person. I’m easygoing. I’m not especially deep.

Well, maybe I’m a little deep. Frankly, I don’t know how deep others’ yardsticks go into the pools of their own psyches, either.

(Okay, I just checked, and mine’s actually a “footstick”. Maybe I’m not so deep, after all.

Hush, you.)

Anyway, I like humor, I like creative things, silly things and smartasses. I don’t talk about the weather well, and I’m no good at keeping track of all those rules I talked about. It makes me tired. I’m fairly mystified by a lot of social conventions and I’m not all that interested in studying up on them. Using a passcode that’s a quote by another character who (except for the smartasses, maybe) feels much the same way seemed natural.

That’s right. I’m talking about Ralph Wiggum.

(What, you were expecting F. Scott Fitzgerald?)

Thus, I’m now starting any potentially promising conversation with the following lead:

So… do you like… stuff?

I know. It’s genius.

And also slightly safer than “My cat’s breath smells like cat food.” Which is nice.

If the beauty of a halting half sequitur eludes you, allow me to lay it out. There are four common sorts of response to this question:

A. Frowning silence, as exemplified by Lisa Simpson, to whom Ralph was speaking in the scene. The people reacting this way don’t know the quote, can’t think of a response and are generally now disappointed to find themselves in the sort of conversation where such things are said.

These people will likely question where they made a wrong turn in life and extricate themselves as quickly as possible from the encounter. Which is what we’re all hoping for.

B. Frustrated non-silence, in the form of furrowed brows and replies like “what the hell is the matter with you?” or “I said, do you know why I pulled you over?

These people are no more helpful than the first, but if a hothead is so hair-triggered as to be set off by a question like this one, then they might be entertaining to watch for the next hour or two. From afar. Because angry people way across the room are funny.

Well. Funni-er, at least.

C. Excited recognition, like “Ralph is my favorite!” or “Ooh, that’s from that show about them yellow cartoon people!” or “Ya-aaa-ay, stuff!!!1!eleventy!” Or worse, listing for you aaaaaaaall of the “stuff” they, indeed, very very much, like.

These people are way too loud. They hop around a lot and Facebook-like captions of cat pictures on their SIdekicks and some of them wear Hello Kitty, but you can’t tell whether they’re wearing it ironically or they’re really wearing it, or why the hell the socks have to match the headband and oh god, they’re talking again and no, I totally don’t want to slide over there to be in your selfie and for the love of Christmas, just settle your shit down already.

Exhausting.

Luckily, these people are like hummingbirds. So if you get this response, you can always feign ignorance — “Ralph who? I just wondered what your opinion of stuff is.” — or pretend ‘stuff’ is actually Helmund von Schtuff, the noted German industrialist who co-patented the shoelace aglet in 1873 but died a syphilitic pauper and nothing else interesting happened to him ever. Because let’s talk about him, Sparkles. That’ll be a hoot.

And then they’ll leave. And you can breathe again.

So what’s left?

D. The ‘click’. It could be a wry smile. A Wiggum quote in reply. Or the “official” passphrase response: “Yeah, I like stuff… and junk.” Any of these, or a hundred others, will do. The connection is made, the wordshake shook.

The key is agreeing on what it means. Namely: we’re outside the box here. Kindred conversational spirits. Let’s talk about something nobody else talks about, because they’re busy talking about the nothing — the fluff, the “stuff” — that everyone talks about. Local weather, pass. Did you hit any traffic? — *bzzzzzttt*! This is a splendid and too-rare opportunity; toss the talking rules, and dig a little deeper.

(That’s “foot-deep” only, of course. Of course.)

Will it work? Oh, probably not. Sure, it all makes sense to me. But getting others on board — especially the right others — could be a problem. It’ll probably involve talking to people.

And talking to people is hard.

Permalink  |  No Comments



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HomeAboutArchiveBestShopEmail © 2003-15 Charlie Hatton All Rights Reserved
Highlights
Me on Film 'n' Stage:
  Drinkstorm Studios


Me on Science (silly):
  Secondhand SCIENCE


Me on Science (real):
  Meta Science News


Me on ZuG (RIP):
  Zolton's FB Pranks
  Zolton Does Amazon


Favorite Posts:
30 Facts: Alton Brown
A Commute Dreary
A Hallmark Moment
Blue's Clues Explained
Eight Your 5-Hole?
El Classo de Espanol
Good News for Goofballs
Grammar, Charlie-Style
Grammar, Revisitated
How I Feel About Hippos
How I Feel About Pinatas
How I Feel About Pirates
Life Is Like...
Life Is Also Like...
Smartass 101
Twelve Simple Rules
Unreal Reality Shows
V-Day for Dummies
Wheel of Misfortune
Zolton, Interview Demon

Me, Elsewhere

Features
Standup Comedy Clips

Selected Clips:
  09/10/05: Com. Studio
  04/30/05: Goodfellaz
  04/09/05: Com. Studio
  01/28/05: Com. Studio
  12/11/04: Emerald Isle
  09/06/04: Connection

Boston Comedy Clubs

 My 100 Things Posts

Selected Things:
  #6: My Stitches
  #7: My Name
  #11: My Spelling Bee
  #35: My Spring Break
  #36: My Skydives
  #53: My Memory
  #55: My Quote
  #78: My Pencil
  #91: My Family
  #100: My Poor Knee

More Features:

List of Lists
33 Faces of Me
Cliche-O-Matic
Punchline Fever
Simpsons Quotes
Quantum Terminology

Favorites
Banterist
...Bleeding Obvious
By Ken Levine
Defective Yeti
DeJENNerate
Divorced Dad of Two
Gallivanting Monkey
Junk Drawer
Life... Weirder
Little. Red. Boat.
Mighty Geek
Mitchieville
PCPPP
Scaryduck
Scott's Tip of the Day
Something Authorly
TGNP
Unlikely Explanations

Archives
Full Archive

Category Archives:

(Stupid) Computers
100Things
A Doofus Is Me
Articles 'n' Zines
Audience Participation
Awkward Conversations
Bits About Blogging
Bitter Old Man Rants
Blasts from My Past
Cars 'n' Drivers
Dog Drivel
Eek!Cards
Foodstuff Fluff
Fun with Words!
Googlicious!
Grooming Gaffes
Just Life
Loopy Lists
Making Fun of Jerks
Marketing Weenies
Married and a Moron
Miscellaneous Nonsense
Potty Talk / Yes, I'm a Pig
Sleep, and Lack Thereof
Standup
Tales from the Stage
Tasty Beverages
The Happy Homeowner
TV & Movies & Games, O My!
Uncategorized
Vacations 'n' Holidays
Weird for the Sake of Weird
Whither the Weather
Wicked Pissah Bahstan
Wide World o' Sports
Work, Work, Work
Zug

Heroes
Alas Smith and Jones
Berkeley Breathed
Bill Hicks
Dave Barry
Dexter's Laboratory
Douglas Adams
Evening at the Improv
Fawlty Towers
George Alec Effinger
Grover
Jake Johannsen
Married... With Children
Monty Python
Nick Bakay
Peter King
Ren and Stimpy
Rob Neyer
Sluggy Freelance
The Simpsons
The State

Plugs, Shameless
100 Best Humor Blogs | Healthy Moms Magazine

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

TopOfBlogs

HumorSource

Blogging Fusion Blog Directory

bloglovin

Top Blogs

 

Feeds and More
Subscribe via FeedBurner

[Subscribe]

RDF
RSS 2.0
Atom
Credits
Site Hosting:
Solid Solutions

Powered by:
MovableType

Title Banner Photo:
Shirley Harshenin

Creative Commons License
  This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License

Mint Installation

Performancing Metrics

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Valid XHTML 1.0

Valid CSS!

© 2003-15 Charlie Hatton
All Rights Reserved