I inwardly cringe as I walk up the steps to the door. Just inside I am met by a large fellow with a round, ruddy face. He smiles broadly, “Well hey there, Doug, how you doing?” and sticks his hand out. I wonder for a moment what would happen if I told him how I’m doing – but immediately dismiss that. I’ve seen it before. I’d tell him about my concern and that would open the door to a rebuttal involving a litany of atrocities that make my ailments seem penny-ante indeed. So I shake his hand and say, “Fine, just fine.” I deliberately leave off the expected, “and you?” We will just leave that door closed. We smile at one another and move in divergent directions.
This exchange is repeated a half-dozen times before I locate a spot that is the slack-water of the room where I can be present, but out of the way. Not hiding, but not easily accessible either.
I watch the crowd and marvel at the ease with which they can chatter on about nothing. Oh, some are updating someone else on their family life or whispering gossip about someone they all know. One is holding court over a group as he lauds his latest business accomplishment. Most are exchanging commentary on the weather, politics, or sports. Typical party chit-chat.
It occurs to me how much more I’d rather be at home with my dogs than here.
Then a plain-looking woman with bobbed hair and a warm smile steps into my bubble of self-preservation and says, “So, how are your dogs?”
Bemused, I smile and am tempted to start telling the tales of their adorable exploits; but unwilling to be rebuffed with a curt “Oh, I see someone I need to touch base with. Nice talking with you!” as she moves hastily away, I smile back and say simply, “Oh, they’re fine, just fine.”
I expect her to say, “That’s good.” and move on, but she doesn’t. She asks about one by name and inquires about the results of his surgery. I supply a brief summation. She probes for detail. Soon we have a conversation going and I’m chattering away like the rest. She tells me about her dog, we compare notes on several issues of canine care … and before you know it we notice that the crowds are drifting toward the door: time to leave.
We exchange final pleasantries as we too exit and head toward our cars.
On the way back home to my pups, I think, “That wasn’t such a bad party after all.” and am grateful to the one person with enough gumption to drag me out of my shell for a while.