Rocket science seems really hard. So does open heart surgery, deep cover espionage, and learning Mandarin. But for me, the complexity associated with each of these activities pales in comparison to something I call “the break in.”
Known by many names—the ice breaker, the introduction, the causal factor behind innumerable severe, public anxiety attacks—the break in refers to the technique one employs when one finds oneself at a large gathering where one knows very few attendees or, in the worst cases, none at all. Whether at a cul-de-sac barbecue in a neighborhood one just joined, a business networking event, or a holiday party where one only knows the host, the only thing more terrifying than the specter of maneuvering one’s way into an in-progress conversation is continuing to stand alone.
So, what is one to do?
I don’t know.
If “one” is me, one scrolls through numbers on one’s phone, won’t eat because he’s overwhelmed by the number of people surrounding the appetizers, and has this weird, raised eyebrow, I’m-easy-going-and-optimistic-if-you-want-to-include-me-in-your-chat-but-I-also-have-a-lot-of-my-own-stuff-going-on-as-you-can-see-from-how-intently-I’m-looking-at-my-phone, look on one’s face.
If one is me, one is unable to properly enact the break in, a break in, or anything akin to breaking in.
If one is me, one knows he needs some help.
To that end, I’ve created a brief list of possible break ins. With a little luck, I’ll be hob-knobbing like the best of ‘em in no time at all.
1. Saying “I don’t mean to interrupt” and then introducing myself.
2. Saying “Hi, I don’t mean to interrupt” and then introducing myself.
3. Just introducing myself without saying anything about not meaning to interrupt.
4. Standing outside a conversation circle, chuckling about an inside joke I overheard but don’t understand and then saying “Wildcards!” with a wink and a two-handed finger point.
5. Faking indigestion and asking every attendee for a specific flavor of Tums that only I know has been discontinued.
6. Quoting Hamlet, loudly, to a tray of carrots, until everyone’s private conversation is interrupted and they’re forced to pay attention to me.
7. Leaving the event to buy a bag of apples and then chopping off both my thumbs before returning, making it very difficult to peel said apples, and justifying my requests for 1.) emergency medical attention, and 2.) help peeling all the apples I just purchased.
8. Grabbing asses.
9. Calling in a bomb threat and then standing on a table to tell everyone that I’ve already notified Batman and “everything will be fine.”
10. Calling in a bomb threat and then standing on a table to tell everyone that I called in a fake bomb threat.
11. Asking every attendee “how spicy is too spicy?”
12. Yelling “Abbondanza” repeatedly, in a really bad Italian accent.
13. Renaming myself “Tornado Joe” and not telling a soul.
14. Being really cool about sharing my time on the see-saw, inspiring everyone to want to know a little bit more about my story and how I came to be such a considerate guy (note: this only applies to events being held on playgrounds).
15. Introducing myself as Jeffrey Dahmer — “Not the murderer!”
16. Reading aloud the entire script of Juwanna Mann as if I were R2-D2.
17. Being respectful and open to others’ opinions at all costs, and never compromising my values.
18. Singing at a subtle decibel level the “come on and work it on out” line from the Beatle’s song “Twist and Shout,” but purposely saying “work it all out” instead of “work it on out,” hoping someone will notice and correct me.
19. Committing heinous acts of treason and murder.
20. Worrying less and loving more.
21. Being the guy who brought the kite.
22. Keeping an ear out for people saying “less” when they mean “fewer,” noticing two people make the misstep, and shouting “You dumb fucking idiot!” in their faces.
23. Saying every male attendee looks “sort of Dickensian” and every female looks “good enough to eat.”
24. Talking about talking about my screenplay with “other writers” while I bend down to untie my shoelace and then tie it again as quickly as I can, because I’m trying to show off.
25. Offering up some high-fives after saying “I know a guy who’s looking to unload flamethrowers cheap…a little too cheap.”
Wish me luck.