The Art of Avoidance

By Al Carlos Hernandez on May 8, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (Irreverent Homemaker @ Herald de Paris) – I don’t know about you, but there are some people I just don’t feel like dealing with in public. I do my best to avoid them, no matter the cost. As a writer I am reclusive. As an educator I’m inclusive. When I’m off the clock I’m maliciously ambivalent.

No doubt there have been many times at the mall, at a store, or walking down the street, when you see the neighbor from across the way, or a guy you used to work with, or some loud-mouthed friend, or one of your former political cronies. You are forced to take evasive action to avoid inane conversation.

Depending on the severity of the potential chance encounter, evasive action could include a simple pretension of looking the other way to getting into the car going home, not answering the phone and never shopping there again. Or, if you’re sensitive and the chance encounter includes an ex-significant other, moving.

Women are particularly good at the duck and cover technique. Moms pass this ability on to their daughters but rarely to their sons. Maybe mamas try teaching boys a particular social etiquette, but most guys never really pay attention. In public, boys are all about looking at babes, trying to look macho or looking for something to eat.

Typical female evasive moves include going in the nearest store and sticking their heads into a rack of sweaters, taking a sharp turn into the underwear section, or taking a kid to the restroom against his will.

For men it is different. Our reaction time is too slow. We run on a 5 to 45 second delay when it comes to perceiving a potentially uncomfortable social situation that is starting to manifest. We are hard wired to ignore everybody and in the worst case scenario will grunt out a, “Howya doin’?”

Men have no idea who a woman wants to talk to and who she wants to avoid. I have erred on the side of, “Hey, Babe, look who I found. See, she isn’t that fat anymore,” to, “What do you mean you saw my aunt and didn’t say hello and tell them where I was? Did they see you? They did and you still didn’t say anything?”

I said, “Hey.”

Women have a certain social radar when it comes to avoidance behavior. They anticipate putting themselves in potential embarrassing social situations and, when cornered, can improvise better than a wired attorney going to jail.

Women have a caring social finesse. Men are usually blunt and to the point and blurt out inquires like, “Why were the cops at your house last week? Whose Camaro is that in your driveway when everybody is at work? You still hitting the loudmouth soup pretty hard! Your brother out of the closet yet? Know anybody who has a boat for sale?”

Men should be aware that in any improvised, surprise, unintentional social encounter, he is responsible to explain at length every extemporaneous question to the woman he is with, be it wife or daughter, when he gets home.

The axiom for men is remedial. The less trash you talk in the street, the better the odds of getting something good to eat.

Catching people off guard is a good way to get the scoop. Their comments are usually unrehearsed and they give up the Reader’s Digest version of the most important things going on in their lives. Some women are particularly adept at grilling the unsuspecting encounter. If this is true, it leads me to surmise that if women are smart enough to avoid an uncomfortable chance encounter, they are indeed smart enough to orchestrate a social ambush.

How many people do I know, or who know me, have successfully avoided me in public? How many of the “chance” encounters I have had with people I don’t usually associate with is set up? An ambush, knowing that if I am cornered I am naive enough to give up the family business when my wife is not there to edit me.

I have found that the best way for me to avoid an uncomfortable chance encounter is to always go out in public dressed in such a way as to make a normal middle class person be embarrassed to be seen with me.

We were at the mall last night. I told my wife, “Don’t you think it’s weird that with all the people we know in this town we never run into anybody we know?” She smiled and shook her head knowingly.

They were there.

Sandy May 8, 2009

Wonderful observation and great humor!

Michele May 11, 2009

ditto to Sandy……………….Carlos… keep these works coming.. love them…brilliant.

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