Papa's House: Are You Serious?

Saturday, February 5, 2005 7:29:46 AM

Not Serious

One afternoon last week I returned from the men's room and commented to some of the folks in our office that the sign on the door as you entered there said "wet floors". Then I added "when got inside I noticed the floor was mostly dry so I sprinkled some water on it like the instructions said." Everybody had a good laugh, and later RK remarked how often a word can be both an adjective and a verb, with sometimes amusing ambiguities as a result. His example was the sign in the park that reads "Fine For Littering", which suggests that one could simply toss their refuse anywhere willy-nilly and that would be perfectly acceptable.

Not Serious?

We have had a part-time temporary staff member with us for the past few months. Today was her last day working for us. The boss ordered pizzas and we had an impromptu party to celebrate her success.

It was a relaxing time, with good conversation (which was almost completely free from any reference to our work). KM mentioned the recent hazing event at California State University, Chico, which resulted in the death of one of the students there. Then other folks discussed other, similar problems at that university and at others -- noting that many times people end up at hospitals (or morgues) with extremely high blood alcohol levels. Most agreed that the general attitude seemed to promote such activity as if it were a virtue.

RK said he just didn't understand why folks had to carry it to such an extreme; why couldn't they go just this far (drawing an imaginary boundary line on the table-top) and then say "that's enough"? KM responded "Well, what should we expect? For years now we've been told that self-expression is a good thing." There seemed to be general agreement with that statement.

Then I said "but isn't self-restraint a form of self-expression?" If I've willingly chosen not to engage in some activities am I not expressing my own desires and asserting my right to do so? The conversation paused for the briefest of moments; one of those awkward times when everyone seems to be trying figure out whether they should laugh, cry, or run away screaming. Then RK said "well, that's like the 'wet floors', isn't it?" Everyone chuckled and the conversation moved along.


I guess I'm kind of weird. I do tend to take most things in life quite seriously, and I'm sometimes frustrated when others don't. I'm not a talkative, socially active person. It takes quite a while for most people to get to know me, but once I've established a friendship I relax a bit and then I do make jokes and have a bit of fun occasionally. That's how we got to the "wet floors" incident.

I'm certain that everyone there clearly understood that I didn't really sprinkle water on the floor. But the assertion that self-restraint is actually a form of self-expression was not intended as a light, off-handed comment.

The Lesson

Don't try to conduct political or philosophical discussions at a party. Folks are interested in having a good time and it's just out of place there. Save the serious stuff for times and places where people are expecting to deal with them.

I guess that it's another one of those subtle social skills that I didn't master in kindergarten. Oh well, it hasn't killed me or caused me to kill anyone else. And I promise, the next time I'm invited to a party I'll try to stick to party-appropriate topics and remember that not all of life must be lived with my neck-tie on.

๐Ÿ“… c: 2005-02-05 07:29 โœ๏ธ e:

tags: #ambiguity #context


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