Since I am not really very good at being around people—I tend to inadvertantly say and do things that horrify them and make them cry—I’m always on the lookout for tips that will make the unsettling aspects of meeting people and engaging them in conversation a little bit easier for me, and for them. One clever suggestion that I came across is to, when meeting people for the first time, ask them for a simple favor. The act of helping you out will form a lightweight personal bond that can serve as a starting point for further conversations. A short while ago, I had the opportunity to put this social tactic to the test, with not so favorable results. Although, I think I may have misinterpreted what was meant by a simple favor, because the people helping me out were eagerly helping me out the door. For some reason, whenever people call me Sir, they feel compelled to add, You’re causing a disturbance.
At a dinner thing that I attended recently, I was seated across from a stranger, a person who was new to me. He was a well dressed fellow with a pleasant looking way about him. Since he was bogarting the only nearby tray of butter, and I really wanted to strike up a conversation with him, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out the simple favor routine.
Leaning into the table in his direction, I started with, “Hello. Excuse me, good fellow.”
To which he replied, “Why, yes. Hello. What can I do for you?”
I followed up with a simple, unambiguous interrogative. “Well, since you asked, I was wondering, are you planning on keeping both of your kidneys?”
He hesitated before responding, probably trying to suss out whether he heard me correctly. People who are unfamilliar with the asking for a favor schtick can be taken a little aback by its application in practice. “I say there, Chap. It sounded like you were asking me if I had plans on using my kidneys.”
Undaunted, I pressed on, determined to make this favor ploy work for me. “Yes, you heard me correctly. I was hoping that maybe if you weren’t planning on making use of both of your kidneys, if I could possibly have one. Or, two. If it’s not too much of an imposition.”
“Well, indeed, yes, I am using my kidneys and I intend to keep doing so! Why do you ask? Are you requiring a kidney transplant?”
“No. I just want to have a human kidney to carry around with me. I think it could be a good conversation starter. I’ll keep it wrapped up in plastic, carry it in a small cooler and take it with me on outings. When people ask me What’s in the cooler? I’ll tell them I have a kidney in there, a human kidney, and then they will ask me all sorts of follow up questions related to the kidney. How did you get it? Where are you taking it? What are you going to do with it? Can I touch it? Stuff like that. So, may I please have one of your kidneys?”
At which point he dropped any further interaction with me and resumed his conversation with the person seated to his left, making believe I had been entirely swallowed up by the universe. He wouldn’t even pass the butter in my direction when asked politely. Definitely, I would put that attempt in the fail column. The experiment was repeated several times during the evening, but it turns out that, as a general rule, people are very reluctant to donate their vital organs to strangers, especially organs that they only have one of. And especially if your only reason for asking for them is to keep them on ice in a bucket as a conversation piece.
Other favors that I requested resulted in a similar cold-shoulder reaction. There was one guy, sitting in front of a basket of bread, who I asked if he would mind helping me get a mortgage on some property I was interested in purchasing. He flatly refused. Even after I explained that he would only have to co-sign the mortgage application, and that his financial commitment would be minimal, he still said, No! Also, I don’t think he really needed to shove me that hard.
Honestly, there are only two things I don’t like about people: meeting them, and talking to them. The next time I am out, I am going to try asking for simpler simple favors. More along the lines of, Can I stay at your place for a few months, a year at most?