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.. I?ll be off then

– A Game of Strategy for the Painfully Self-Aware –

You?re with a group of people at a bar. For the sake of this game, lets call the people ?comics? and the bar, a comedy club on a Thursday night. But you can adapt it to most social environments. You know these comics well enough to talk to them, but you?re not really in with them. Mainly because you?re about 20 years older, married and are well beyond your drinking ?glory days?.

The evening is drawing to a close, for you at least. The conversation you?ve sort of been part of is winding down and a few of the group have drifted off to other parts of the bar and more rowdy conversations. But something keeps you there. Is it because:

(a) You think you?ll look cool by association
(b) You want to gossip about another comic
(c) You fancy one of the other comics

If you chose (d), roll the dice.

Another comic (hereon known as the interloper) comes over and joins the three of you. The interloper starts off slow but soon he?s taken over, chattering away about himself as if he?s back on stage. But he doesn?t address all three of you, just the more popular comic to his right (hereon the chosen one). Which isn?t you. The chosen one shoots you and the third comic the occasional glance or a smile and you feel this is enough to keep you in the game. To show the interloper and chosen one that you’re engaged and ready to to join in, you give some verbal signs, an occasional ?yep?, a chuckle, a nod of your head.

Player drops out.

Your fellow peripherarian, the third comic, whom you felt in competition with even though he was showing no outward signs of feeling excluded, suddenly drops out of the game. He’s managed strike up a conversation with a passing third party and now has his back to you. You certainly can’t join him, so it’s down to you, the interloper and the chosen one. What do you do:

(a) Decide to slip away quietly without saying goodbye.
5 Points. While this may work, it poses a number of hazards. As you head for the door, the interloper and chosen comic may notice your departure and call out to you in a friendly manner and wonder why you didn?t say goodbye. You?ll thus appear even more rude and aloof than before and might as well have left an hour ago. Conversely, you run the risk that no-one at all will notice, thus destroying what?s left of your ego and leaving you to brood all the way home on the fact that nobody likes you.

(b) Wait for a lull in the conversation to let them know you’re leaving.
5 Points. In theory, this strategy should work. It works for millions of people every day. The conversation pauses, there?s handshakes or a masculine hug, maybe a tentative plan for tomorrow night and the individual happily heads for the door. Unfortunately for you, there?s no lull. You are now trapped by your own self-consciousness, wondering how the hell the interloper can keep going without taking a breath.

(c) Break in to the conversation to let them know you?re leaving.
7 Points. Good pay-off in terms of establishing assertiveness but high risk strategy. Extremely important to find the right moment to jump in and announce ?I?m just heading out?.

Interrupting at an inappropriate moment will appear rude and thoughtless and lead to shame and reproachfulness. Interrupting just as the conversation reaches an exciting and noisy point will render the interloper and chosen one deaf. You will therefore have to repeat yourself at a higher volume, but run the risk that you were indeed heard the first time but just ignored.

(d) Try to catch someone elses eye in the bar and head over.
7 Points. A good tactic that establishes your popularity and provides a graceful semi-exit. Make sure your approach is either to someone else that?s alone or not too deep in conversation. Once you’ve made eye contact, simply excuse yourself to the interloper and chosen one, who may or may not notice and stride purposefully across the room.

Be prepared with a real reason to talk to the other person or at least a decent opening gambit. In event of brain failure, ‘buy you a drink?’ is acceptable. Under no circumstances should you blow your cover and reveal that you were looking for an out from the previous conversation. Especially because this leads to the second problem wih option d – it is only a temporary escape. You must now also exit this conversation to complete your mission.

10 Points.

If you selected (e), roll the dice.

Congratulations. In your pocket you feel your cell phone and realise you have the perfect out. Swiftly you pull the phone from your pocket as if its vibrations have startled you. You look at the display as though wondering who the call is from, put it to your ear and say ?hello??. Then you start walking swiftly, continuing the conversation that you aren?t really having until you reach freedom and the cool clean air outside.

Game Over. New Player.