Sunday, March 14, 2010

Social Gracelessness

It might have been my odd personality, or my quirky looks, or my deplorable social skills, or maybe a combination of all three . . . but I never was one of those popular guys in school.

I'm not quick on the draw in conversations, which may have been a contributing factor as well. It takes me a while to process information and formulate an intelligent answer, especially when I'm caught off guard. Like yesterday when I met someone that I hadn't seen for about thirty years. When I finally realized who she was, I stammered something like, "Wow, you look older . . . I mean, more mature . . . or something [I'm such a lame brain] . . . what I meant to say was, you're all grown up now [oh, never mind].

Or like the car vs moose collision we attended recently. The driver wasn't hurt, but needed a tow to Thunder Bay. Being the Dudley Do-right firefighter kind of guy that I am, I told her there was a tow truck in Upsala, but it was going to cost an arm and a leg, and too bad her auto club wouldn't cover it, and the tow operator would just impound her car until she paid the bill, and I really hoped her insurance would take care of this [why does she look all panic stricken and deer-in-the-headlights?] . . . and, um, how would she like to discuss this with the suave young police officer who just arrived at the scene?

The suave cop said, "You need your car towed to Thunder Bay, ma'am? Certainly! I'll look after getting a tow truck, and yes, you can ride in with him to town. Payment? Oh, you can work out the details later. No need to thank me, it's my job." The information he offered was factually identical to what I had said, but somehow it seemed to go over better. I must have slept through that part of the Public Relations 101 course . . .

This social ineptitude affects every part of my life. Erinn and I enjoyed a peaceful walk yesterday in the beautiful, unseasonably warm March weather. She noted how the snow was almost gone and the pussy willows were coming out. I reassured her that this was way too early for spring, and that we were going to get nailed with more snow storms, and March comes in like a lamb but goes out like a lion, and don't get too comfortable because winter can last right up to the end of May . . . [why is she scowling daggers at me?]. . . and wow, isn't the sunshine just lovely?

[Side note: You can't afford to be slow on the draw at an emergency scene. Especially when the house is fully involved and the siding on the neighbour's house has begun to melt, and you have 10 minutes worth of water on your two trucks, and the nearest creek is five miles away, and only three firefighters showed up for the call . . . My policy is that if an intelligent solution doesn't reveal itself by the time the size up is complete, just do something, and the correct course of action will become apparent soon enough.]

Sometimes it's expedient to be a social klutz. The other day a phone company telemarketer called. I was expecting the call . . . the number had appeared on our caller ID a dozen or so times over the previous few days. I knew what the call was about too. I had cancelled my long distance plan (which I never used), saving myself $5.95/month, along with a networking charge that cost $4.95/month . . and I had paid these charges for a long, long time before I realized I could just get a calling card, which would give me a better price per minute without the extra fees (I told you I was slow on the draw). So we all ignored the telemarketer, who undauntedly kept trying until finally I picked up the phone one evening.

Telemarketer: Good evening Mr. Beebe, I'm calling to let you know that you are a valued customer . . .
Me: You knew that I never make long distance calls.
Telemarketer: Yes, but we have a better deal . . .
Me: You knew that useless plan I cancelled was costing me over $10 a month.
Telemarketer: . . . for only $5.00 a month (plus a small networking fee) . . .
Me: You knew that you had a "better deal" all along.
Telemarketer: . . . you can bundle with . . .
Me: Why didn't someone offer me this awesome plan when I WAS STILL YOUR CUSTOMER!!?

Sigh. Social ineptitude may have its drawbacks, but it does come in handy occasionally.

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