I was having dinner with my friend, Sean, when it happened.
He was talking about Caroline, who was the latest notch in his belt. After a solid twelve weeks of being together he convinced himself Caroline was going to be his wife. He molded fantasies of picket fences and coaching little league teams.
Then she dumped him.
He was crushed. An outsider would have thought they just ended a thirty year marriage. Alas, it was only three months. I consoled. I sympathized. I provided anecdotal advice surrounding my past relationships.
An hour later the conversation was finally wrapping up. I told him how he would move on, and it was for the best. He agreed. Gave a heavy sigh. Then said, “But what am I supposed to do now?”
We had been over this three times already. I started gulping my beer as my mind raced. How could I get out of this? How could I change the subject? How could I make it stop? How could I be a friend and save my sanity at the same time?
The question is…How do you tell someone you don’t care?
These moments happen all the time. Do you have a co-worker talking about the people who didn’t come to the 1-year old’s birthday party? Do you have a neighbor who insists on telling you about the eating habits of their housecat? Do you have a relative who talks about who won the Superbowl…in the middle of June?
We try to be gracious and sincere. We nod and smile, even if for an illusion of interest. But when does the time come when we take a stance for ourselves? When do we tell people, “I don’t want to talk about this” and be regarded as honest, instead of selfish?
I know the solution, and it will redefine social interaction as we know it. It will profoundly shape the way we communicate, and no feelings will be hurt.
Everyone needs a squirt bottle – filled with water.
Back to my conversation with Sean. Just as he was setting up cycle four of the same break-up conversation, I would have reached for my purse, pulled out the squirt bottle, and…
Tsk tsk tsk.
…squirt him with water, square in the chest. There is no need to exchange words. He’ll know he’s done something wrong – like a puppy that pees on the carpet and knows they’ve been caught. I put the squirt bottle back in my purse and move on to better things.
That co-worker won’t shut up about the GD birthday party? Get up from your desk, squirt bottle in hand…TSK TSK TSK.
You walk to your car in the morning and are ambushed by the neighbor? You don’t even have to let them speak. Hold up the squirt bottle, and taunt them with it. Gently shake the squirt bottle back and forth. Tap it with your index finger if you feel so inclined. Watch as they retreat back to their own home.
The squirt bottle will revolutionize the constructs of sociology.
However you don’t need to limit your squirt bottle practices to conversational avoidance.
Is there someone in your office who excessively clears their throat? UNNECESSARILY clears their throat? Don’t say word – get out the squirt bottle. TSK TSK TSK!
Does a parent shout insults and obscenities during pee-wee football? TSK TSK TSK!
Is there a person in the middle of the grocery aisle, blocking all traffic with their cart and not giving the slightest indication they know other people exist? TSK TSK TSK!
Person in front of you taking too long at the ATM? TSK TSK TSK!
That couple behind you in the movie won’t shut up? TSK TSK TSK!
Think of the time and mental anguish that will be saved. Think of the shortage of eye-rolls. It’s just you, and your squirt bottle. That little reminder, telling people they are annoying and need to get a grip.
How liberating it will be! Free yourself, my reader(s), from mind numbing conversations and the annoyances of humankind.