My brother has spoken approximately 27 words in his entire life. It’s possible he speaks at work, when he’s deep in the bowels of the Pentagon creating the dinosaur-human hybrid super-soldiers that you must pretend to know nothing about, but I can’t vouch for that.

He gets this lack of verbosity from our father.

Among my mother and her legion of siblings, there has not been a documented break in the conversation since 1932. There are rumors that there was a moment of collective silence at a Church service in 1953, but lacking credible eye-witnesses, I choose not to believe it. Conversations in my mother’s family are like the audio recordings NASA pumps into space, they will be floating far out into the Universe long after our sun explodes and our galaxy is snuffed out in a fiery cataclysm.

My father, on the other hand, was a man of few words.

I don’t mention these conversational contrasts because I worry that someday life-forms in a distant galaxy are going to pick up an argument over cheeze-it flavors on their radio telescopes, which will have far-reaching implications for their civilization.

I mention it because my father had an effective method for dealing with busy bodies – those people who won’t take no for an answer and demand to know what else you need to do that could possibly be more important than what they want you to do.

The conversation would go something like this:

“But surely you can stay for a few more hours.”
“No, I’m sorry, I have things to do.”
“What sort of things?”
At this, my father would lean in, repeat simply, ominously, in very hushed tones, “Things.”

And then, he would smile.

It was the unexpected smile that sold it. If you’re curt and rude you just seem socially inept and boorish. If you smile and are polite as you brush them off, it unsettles them a bit and allows for a graceful get-away. I highly recommend it.

It might help if, like my father, you’re very large and heavily armed and otherwise never say a word, Regardless, I say go for it. If nothing else, maybe politeness itself will be enough to confuse them.

Please clap.
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One Thought on “Things

  1. Evil Agent on December 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm said:

    I always rather liked, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” “Yes, indeed it does sound lovely, but I’m sorry, I can’t.”

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