Thursday, May 12, 2005

On Alternate Realities

[This post inspired by this one from This Place is Dead Anyway.]

Here in DC, everyone and their brother is a lawyer. (Or at least it seems like this is the case.) It's insanely dull that way. Party conversations inevitably end up something like this:

Person 1: So what do you do?
Person 2: I'm a lawyer.
Person 1: Oh, another one of those, huh?
Person 2: Yeah.... What about you? What do you do?
Person 1: I'm a lawyer too.
Person 2: Ah.
Person 1: Ah.
Both: ....

And because everyone has preconceived notions about lawyers anyway, it ends up being a conversation killer on the off chance that the person you're talking to actually isn't a lawyer.

[Yes yes yes, there are better things to talk about than your occupation, and yes yes yes, Washington is notoriously pretentious for elevating "What do you do?" to the make-or-break point in a conversation, blah blah blah... that's not the thrust of this post.]

Therefore, from time to time, I like to make up professions for me to adopt at parties. I usually reserve this game for parties where I'm relatively sure that either (a) I'll never ever see these people again (parties out of town or with a social group I know I won't have contact with again), or (b) the crowd is cool enough that if I do see them again and 'fess up to lying, it'll be okay.

It's a delicate balance; you have to make sure your "chosen profession" is obscure enough that no one really knows what it entails, but you have to know enough about it to bullshit your way through normal conversation about your job, at least to some extent (before politely moving on with "Oh, but my job is so boring. Let's talk about something else, like [you/the delightful food spread/the hideousness of that guy's clothes/the smokin' hotness of that guy over there]").

[Yes yes yes, this is the conversation we should move into right after the "oh we're both lawyers" exchange described above.]

So far, the nonlawyer positions I've come up with for myself include:

Freelance Writer. But, of course, nothing you've read, because they're usually in smaller, crappier magazines, like Genre, Golf Digest (but not a strictly golf-based story, since I know nothing about golf), or Noodle.

Assistant Zookeeper. It worked once or twice, but after the spate of random deaths at the National Zoo, I abandoned this idea.

Math teacher. It's kind of stereotypical for an Asian man to be a math teacher, but I think it really is what I would like to do if I weren't actually a lawyer. And I'm reasonably decent at high school math. Or at least I used to be.

Food and Health Inspector. You know, those guys who go around inspecting restaurants and stuff making sure they're up to code. Of course, I don't really know "the Code" to which these restaurants have to be "up," but I've found that people tend not to delve into the details of that: they really just want to know which places are the filthiest while still passing inspection. I like to regal them with fake stories of the restaurants I either like or hate. If I like the place, I'll tell them how much it sucks so that it doesn't get too popular, preventing me from getting a table. If I hate it... well, I just discourage people from going.

Seamster. (Is that even a word?) It just seems so out of place in this town that's totally full of itself and its white-collarness. No one knows enough about sewing to ask me details about this profession.

Bookstore Manager. At one of the more obscure branches of Barnes & Noble or Borders.

College Admissions Officer. Like at Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, or American. I have to be careful with this one, though, because I think I actually have met Georgetown admissions officers at previous parties.

OB/GYN. This works particularly well at gay venues/parties. Gay men are revulsed by the thought that I spend my professional work day looking up coochies. And they certainly don't know enough about them to ask about it. I look a little young for a doctor, though, so perhaps I should start by being a resident or something.

Legal Assistant. Once when I was out with some lawyer friends, I told one stranger that I was my friend's secretary. I then told her (my friend) that the interrogatories she left on my desk would go out first thing Monday morning. (My friend wasn't particularly amused for some reason. I find her boring now.)

I have rejected the following as possible professions:

Financial Advisor. While I've lately been reading a lot of Suze Orman, as well as watching her show, and talking to my own financial planner (who is probably sick of my calls), such that I feel like I'm decently versed now on money matters (at least my own), I'm afraid of people asking me for advice. Then I'd sound too incompetent to be doing that for a living.

Bartender. Although I'd love to be one (I'd need to have some training), I'm afraid that (1) someone would ask where I worked so they could come by for comped booze, or (2) they would expect me to know a lot about mixed drinks and various liquors, which I do not.

Advertising Executive. I'm just not creative enough to wing this one.

Aspiring Actor. It could work just because there's so much under-the-radar theater here in DC that I could fake my credentials... but then people would tend to ask me where I waited tables to make ends meet, and I wouldn't be able to fake that as well. That's two levels of faking it, and I simply don't have the mental strength for that.

If you have any suggestions for fake professions for the next time I go out, feel free to leave them for me in the comments.


Steve said...

Did you forget porn star? Kidding. I kid. My problem is when being introduced to people, friends will ALWAYS say: "This is Steve. He 'works for' the radio." Not--he's in radio, he works at a radio station, or, he's on the radio... it's, he works 'for' the radio. I would opt for porn star, but I don't think anybody would buy it.

Jon said...

The word is 'seamstress', though I think you may mean tailor? A tailor is someone who makes alterations, a seamstress usually works in a sweat shop.

Having met you once, I could see you in public relations, you seem very social

p.p. said...

I use rodeo clown. haha... still cracks me up.

anne said...

French teacher? You said French was a language you liked?
I usually go for "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you" with people I don't want to talk to. That works wonders, as they tend to think "moron" and leave.

Dennis! said...

Steve: Gay men would laugh their asses off if I tried to be serious with that one. I suppose I could be in straight porn, though, seeing as the men in straight porn tend to be ridiculously ugly, unlike the ripped studs in gay porn.

Jon: Yeah, I was looking for the male form of that word. Perhaps a male seamstress is, in fact, a tailor.

Peter: Oooo... there's an option.

Anne: The fear in that would be encountering someone who speaks French well, who would then expect me to converse with them. Je peux pas faire ├ža.

Me said...

I tell people that I meet at the bars that I'm unemployed. And I have to say, most, if they catch me, have a sense of humor about it.

My favorite boy, he thought for the first 8 hours that we were talking that I was unemployed, until I handed him my business card.

And it's just so much more respectable than being a lawyer.

Dennis! said...

Steph: Hear, hear! :)

MoDigli said...

How about saying your a comedian? ... or how about a professional hair plucker? What do they call those people? Perhaps you could fancy it up and say "Electrologist" - the ones that pulse electric currents into hair follicles to make them wither and die.

That would be MUCH more interesting than lawyer! :)