I am generally not certain of how to behave at parties. I consider myself quite adept at talking to nearly anyone about nearly anything. I'm not worried about having nothing to say, or about having no ability to talk about my conversation partner's life. But some of the other basic skills elude me.
Last night at Scott's MLK party (which was really quite excellent, good music, good people, pleasant all around) I found myself in a conversation with some of his friends from college. Midway through this conversation I mentioned I worked for Howard Dean in Iowa. A voice from behind me and to the right started out. This woman's voice was powerfully familiar. I couldn't place it, but as I turned to see who it was I realized I had never met her before. But not only did she have the voice of some friend of mine she herself appeared to be a composite of several friends. She was like this meta-memory. Oh, and named Trish. Strange, right. It is at this point that I should explain the basic conversational geography. I'm in a narrow "hallway" within the kitchen. I'm backed up to the side of the refrigerator, and I have to lean in to hear this woman speak. Scott has vacated the area by this point. Okay, back to the story(ies). We exchange pleasantries, I explain where I've lived, how I came to this party, this city. I ask the same. Further reinforcing my belief that I can talk about nearly anything, we proceed to have a 20 minute conversation about Uzbekistan. Not only about Uzbekistan (the country where she did the PeaceCorps) but about Uzbek handicrafts. As trusted friends, I'll let all you readers in on the very very obvious secret at work here, I don't know shit about Uzbekistan. I'm quite certain that a) she knew that and was just being polite, and enjoyed talking to someone who was genuinely (I was) interested in learning more or b) had had some wine and was on conversational autopilot. I have no idea which is more likely, as I am a terrible judge of the BAC of my friends and interlocutors. Suffice to say we had a relatively pleasant conversation, you know basic 20something party talk. I asked about the forms of Uzbek handicrafts, whether or not it was mainly fiber work, and whether or not said pieces were largely devotional or more familial. I learned that Uzbeks are mostly Muslim and that their handicrafts are largely ceramic and dedicated to familial scenes with some devotional elements. So there you go, next time I'm in a conversation about Central Asian NGOs w/r/t said NGOs art pieces, I'll have one more thing to say.
All in all a pleasant conversation. However, there's really only so far you can take that conversation before you want to... what's the right word. Stop. I'm pretty good at starting conversations and can be compelling in the middle but I have no earthly idea how to finish one. I'm the Neal Stephenson of conversation. It was at this point that I did the scan. You know where you scan for something, or more often someone whose presence necessitates immediate and solo attention. The, "hey, I'm going to talk to person X for reason Y." As I was pinned against the refrigerator with no familiar persons in my field of view, I was stuck. I imagine she felt just as much stuck. And at that moment I realized I was sporting the party goers magic bullet. I reached down to my left pant leg, pulled it up about 6 inches revealing my air cast and said, "I think I'm going to go and grab a seat, nice to have met you." And like a shot, like a man with two fully functioning ankles, I was off. Leaving her to more interesting conversation, and me to hang out with my frisbee friends. Again, it's not a matter of her being annoying, far from it, but I just can't get out of conversations. But now. But now, I'm imbued with THE TOOL.
Later in the party some of the more rhythmically competent attendees began to shake: "groove things" and "what your momma gave yous" and generally proceed to "get down." Someone came over and asked if I'd add my awkwardness to the assembled appendages and asses. I slyly reached for my left pant leg. Sorry can't.
I think I may start bringing the air cast to parties when I'm healthy. God bless you AirCast. You protect my ankles and my pride.