Friday, December 16, 2016

Story 165: The Art of Standing Around Awkwardly

(Scratchy VHS tape, © l986)
(The host enters from stage right: in 15 years, he will be an action star in blockbuster films; at this time, he is No One)
Host: Hello!  Welcome to the thirteenth installment in the Social Encounters Seminar Series.  This one is titled “The Art of Standing Around Awkwardly.”  (That title appears at the bottom of the screen for emphasis.) I’m your host, Tad Buffman.  (Not his actual name) Now, I’m going to take you through several exercises for those situations where you feel like, well, like you just don’t fit in.  We’ve all been there, haven’t we, and some of us at this very moment, heh, heh, heh.  (He smiles widely; he still has all his original adult teeth)
(Cut to a staged cocktail party: everyone is holding plates of fake food and/or glasses of fake drinks as they nod and speak gibberish to each other)
Host: (Voiceover) Yes, we have all been that person at a party, the one who has been temporarily abandoned by their allies or, unthinkably, came alone, and is now set adrift upon the unforgiving sea of inane chatter and clock watching, conspicuous in your solitude and the target of alternating scorn and pity to all who beheld your exile.  You know, like this guy here.  (The camera suddenly pans to the most awkward-looking person imaginable: he is standing center stage staring intensely at his nearly empty plate) Look at this poor sap: not even a drink in his hand to constantly sip from, and he has just one cracker left to carry him over for the next 10 minutes before he can gracefully return to the cheeseboard.  If only he were more like this guy over here.  (The camera suddenly pans over to a very self-assured man leaning casually in the corner, holding his full plate and a glass in one hand while the other is in his pocket; he casually scans the room regularly as he slowly chews) Look at this specimen of confidence: not only is he well-supplied with food and drink, but he is utilizing them as accessories rather than as the sole and necessary objects of his attention.  Plus, observe how he boldly gazes upon the entire room, challenging anyone to judge his solitude and presenting the appearance that he actually is judging them; constantly chewing adds to the illusion of apathy.  Ooh, look at the result: five people are now joining him for what they assume will be stimulating conversation, and by the time that illusion is shattered it will be TOO LATE.
(Cut to a college classroom.  Most of the fake students are leaving – none of them are carrying books or bags.  The “professor” is packing away her belongings as two students approach from different directions; she greets the one closer to her and they babble to each other.  The other "student" steps back and starts looking around the room)
Host: (Voiceover) Has this ever been you?  Of course it has, or else you wouldn’t be watching this video right now.  Now you naturally don’t want to take away from other people’s time, but can’t they just hurry up?  What are you supposed to do with yourself when you’ve been left hanging, exposed, vulnerable, humiliated, and, worst of all, BORED?  (The Tape jumps as the scene alters slightly to show the fake professor and the fake student still babbling to each other, but the second “student” now is sitting stretched across several desks, napping) The greatest learning and entertainment system can be found in our own minds, and what better way to access those centers by initiating delta waves, aka falling asleep?  Not only are you then constantly stimulated but you also are not beholden to the whims of others – they instead must beg you for your attention.  (The “professor” and “student” part, and the former wakes up the second “student” by dropping a heavy book on the desk next to her head) You can honestly claim that you were storing the day’s lesson in your long-term memory in the most efficient method possible: REM sleep.
(Cut to a long line to purchase tickets; a sign at the box office reads: DAYS TO TICKET SALES FOR BLOCKBUSTER: 2)
Host: (Strolls into view from stage right) Have you ever joined your fellows in a literally days-long line and wished that you had been better prepared for the ordeal? Wait, that’s for another seminar, never mind.
(Static, then cut to the Host back in the opening plain room)
Host: Normally, there should be at least three examples to drive home a lesson, but frankly we have exceeded our time limit and budget for this installment.  There should be more than enough material here for you to figure out how to deal with these situations on your own, and if not, then you are far worse off than any self-help tape can fix.  Once again, I’ve been your host, Chad Marksman (Not his actual name) – please join us next on the fourteenth seminar in this series, “The Art of Inane Conversation."


  1. good take on fake or useless seminars. well-written.

  2. Thanks! Also good for those socially awkward moments :-).