Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Let me tell you something interesting about myself.

At some point last week I found myself stuck talking to someone I didn't know who appeared to be interested in getting to know me as quickly as possible. I can't recall the location or person involved (so sorry if this story is about you), so I'm going to guess it happened in a bar because I think that's a reasonable assumption. In real life, the way to do this would be to buy me a drink or two, because not only will I then tell you what I've been doing the last ten years of my life, I will tell you everything embarrassing that has happened to me in the past 48 hours. But some people make the mistake of trying to apply things learned in the classroom to real life. Yes that's right, I'm talking about the dreaded Ice Breaker. Your high school teachers and occasional college professors used them as a form of punishment because their salaries weren't high enough and in order to establish a respectable amount of fear within the classroom. Outside of education, they are occasionally used in interviews. At no point should they be used in actual real-world social situations, but not everyone knows this. Given my overwhelming and perhaps exaggerated hatred for ice-breakers, it struck a particular chord when this guy asked me to "tell him something interesting about myself." Granted it's not the most invasive question I could be asked by a drunk stranger at a bar, but it does happen to be the one question which I have a personal vendetta with. On a side note, it seems to shriek "I haven't yet decided if I should be wasting my time talking to you or not. Do your best. Dance, monkey, dance." This is of course a cynical, slightly bitter interpretation of the question, but what would you expect?

You see, back in Shakespeare 101, I had a professor that opened every class period with an ice breaker. For the entire semester. We would go around the classroom of fifty-seven or was it four hundred people and each share something "interesting" about ourselves. Then we would spend the remaining forty-five minutes of class going around the room repeating the names of the people that went before us and what made them so gosh-darn interesting. Finally, we would wrap up class time by turning in the homework I had not gotten around to finishing. So in one semester I had to concoct over sixty different interesting points about myself. I spent more time in preparation for this event than for our mid-term exam paper. Halfway through the semester I considered creating elaborate lies about my life so that I could impress these strangers and they would remember my name in under seven minutes. How could it be that every person in this class has had astonishing things happen to them? Raised by wolves? Lived in the Amazon years 1990-1993 and subsisted entirely on grasshoppers? Freakishly has three kidneys? What's next??

The problem with this situation is that I am probably one of the least interesting on-paper individuals you could hope to meet. Give me an hour and I can tell you all about my horrendous trip through airport security or how exactly I managed to forget my purse and cell phone in a cab and get someone banned from a cab company in one night, but require me to put my life in bullet points and you will get bored very quickly. Don't believe me?

  • I was born in a suburb in Illinois with two parents.
  • I have one brother.
  • We had a dog.
  • At one time I had two complete sets of grandparents.
  • I do not speak any foreign languages.
  • I have never broken any bones.
  • I have never been abducted by aliens or held hostage in Columbia for months.
  • I have no special talents and I have no abnormal human abilities such as being double-jointed or rolling my tongue. I cannot touch my tongue to my nose.
  • I have worked no exciting jobs. I have worked at a Walgreens, a health club, and a hospital.
  • I have never been in jail nor have I been married.
  • I do not play any sports and I have never won any awards.
  • I do not like clubs or organizations and therefore have never been a part of one, unless they were giving out free snacks and refreshments, in which case I was a member for the duration of one day.
Maybe my New Year's Resolution should be to work on my list so that next time I am in this situation, I will be very impressive and everyone will remember my name for the rest of the day. But for now I will have to put that off until this episode of Law and Order is over.

How do these stories end? (More importantly, will they ever? Everyone here is very tired.)

At the end of the semester, I made the unwise decision to tell the class that my last interesting fact was that I had not learned a single person's name as a result of playing this game every day. I got a B- in the class and I will never purposely read Shakespeare again. In regards to the more recent situation, my refusal to share anything remotely interesting about myself did not earn me a free drink, and no one learned my name. Maybe next time I will know how to better introduce myself. "Hi, I'm Ashley. I speak seventeen different languages but most of them are no longer in use so you probably have not heard of them. I spent most of my childhood touring with Motley Crue and my biological father is Sean Penn. One of my legs and one of my arms is actually a prosthetic, but I have still managed to run seven marathons. I can roll my "r's"."

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