Saturday, December 4, 2010

There Is Another Sky

Whenever my boss calls me into his office to hand out an assignment, I get a pop-culture quiz. Thanks to the fact that I’ve never lived in a house with a TV, I fail all of them. He got a little twitchy around the mouth when I asked him if the Rose Bowl smelled nice, and when I mixed up Star Trek and Star Wars he almost cried.

Assignments have now been supplemented with lectures on pop-culture.

Since I suspect Boss is secretly a ninja assassin, I figure the quizzes are actually thinly disguised lessons on how to level up as a ninja, so I pay attention. Sometimes it’s pretty hard to figure out what the message is. Okay, to be honest, I haven’t figured any of them out which is why I'm not a ninja. Yet.

Anyway, this week's lecture was on why watching football was Good, Right, and Moral. To supplement his argument, Boss cited Jean Paul Sartre, and the Newtonian principles of physics.

(Does that happen when you hit forty? You wake up one day and suddenly physics is no longer a traumatizing memory, but something that you can lob at unsuspecting victims? Damn. I can’t wait for forty.)

Boss: Look, all I’m saying is become conversational. You need to be able to talk to people.
Owl: Um, I can talk about books.
Boss: Child, this is America. We’re all too fat, dumb, and happy to read.
Owl: Oh.
Boss: Now go watch the NFL.
Owl: National Forensics League…?

I decided to prove Boss wrong. I can hold a meaningful conversation without resorting to football foolery. (For God's sake, footballers don't even use a proper ball. Maybe footballs start out as proper balls but then they get squashed during the course of the game?) The key was practice. I’d start off with my coworker and work my way up to speaking during meetings, which surely would morph into becoming a social butterfly and hosting balls, before I hit my stride as a talk show host a la Opera or Oprah or whatever her name is. Yes. Practice was going to take me places.

Here’s how it went down in my head.

Owl: Okay we’re going to have an awesome conversation so I don’t have to learn footballese. What do you want to talk about?
Coworker: There is another sky.

[In college, my all time favorite professor waltzed into class one day and said, “Can you imagine running into a stranger who said to you—‘There is another sky!’" Honestly, I couldn’t. But ever since I’ve been hoping.]

Actually, as I practiced I realized the problem with a line like “There is another sky” is you can't actually top Emily Dickinson.

But that’s okay. I decided music would suddenly pour out of this other sky so I wouldn't have to reply and we would all burst into Handel’s Messiah and prance through the hallways until the entire office was belting out Hallelujahs.

In books this is called a deus ex machina. In real life it’s called a miracle.

Yeah. I was all set to do this conversation thing.

Monday morning I stopped by my coworker’s cube and cleared my throat meaningfully. I’d done my homework. I’d practiced. This was going to be awesome.


Owl: How was your weekend?
Coworker: Good. Yours?
Owl: Good.

[Awkward silence.]

Owl: It’s your turn to say something.
Coworker: …
Owl: *helpfully* For instance, you could say—There’s another sky!
Coworker: What?

[Owl waits. Long silence. Apparently coworker is not going to say there is another sky.]

Owl: If you said "There's another sky," we could sing Handel's Messiah.
Coworker: Have you been hitting the happy juice?
Owl: You know, I like imaginary you much better.
Coworker: …Imaginary me?
Owl: The version in my head that I practiced this conversation with. Imaginary you quoted Emily Dickinson and could belt out Handel's Messiah like no one's business.It was a good time.
Coworker: If you weren’t blocking the entrance to my cube I’d be backing away slowly…

At that point there was nothing else to do but claim an urgent meeting and sulk in my cube.

And so, I have decided to give up on conversation and figure out another way to earn my ninja laurels. In the meanwhile I plan to devote myself to blogging. Here at least I can say—

There is another sky!

Ninja courtesy of Rich Ercolani


  1. If someone came up to me and said "There is another sky!" I would first eye them carefully so as to determine whether or not they were actually on crack...and then I could cautiously ask them to take me to it.

    If they were using it as a figure of speech I would be disappointed enough to hit them with a book.

    Also, I *never* talk about football, except when reminiscing about pep band! And we have lovely conversations, don't we? Right? *wibbling kitten eyes*

  2. "and then I could cautiously ask them to take me to it."
    and this is why I love you.

    and hitting people with a book, that's also why I love you too.

  3. Step 1 of having conversation with Normal People: if both sides want the conversation to continue, both sides must furnish additional material to build a conversation on/with/in/wherever.

    I have yet to figure out step 2, which is why my awkward small talk limps along for about 3 sentences and then dies a flopping, painful death. >_>;;

  4. @ Gilrandir: Oh god I know how you feel. Plus, I generally feel like I have nothing to talk to "normal people" about...I can maybe muster three or four sentences about weather and/or work, but after that I'm all like "OMG Geekery!"

    @Owl: Aw! Well, blog posts like this are the reason why I love *you*!

    Also, oh my god I just realized you tagged Miffy-Vader as a ninja...I...I don't know what to say.

  5. Have I mentioned that I love your description of yourself? =)
    Desperately happy.

    O hai I are Amurrican and I can talk books too! (When people start talking sports of any kind I go into smile-and-nod-and-occasionally-furrow-thoughtful-brow-whilst-inwardly-panicking mode. Unless it's tennis, in which case I say something like "Andre Agassi's such a pimp." Or "Roger Federer's such a pimp." Or "Andy Roddick thinks he's such a pimp." Because that's how I watch the little bit of tennis I watch- checking out the men.)


  6. @Gilrandir. I keep forgetting that part. I always stare off into space and then realize, oh, crappu, must SAY words that I'm thinking.

    @Miss Felis. Yeah. Well. Ya know. A black mask automatically qualifies you as a ninja.

    @tamasha so men's volleyball? I would totally follow that if I had a TV. Just sayin'.

  7. @Owl: I hate 1-on-1 conversations, but I love sitting in on multiple-people conversations *because* I don't feel obligated to hold up my end of a convo when there's plenty of chatter already. The flip side is that I'll usually have a running commentary going on in my head, and none of it makes its way *out* of my head but I can never manage to remember that, somehow.

    @Felis: Somehow, most of my getting-to-know-you conversations with people that have blossomed into reasonably comfortable acquaintanceships were related to anime. I guess it's a filtering mechanism of sorts... for good or for bad.

  8. It varies for me. I adore 1-on-1's, it's a great chance to really focus on the other person and connect with them, but they only work when both people are comfortable with each other. But there's a special hilarity, especially when you have a close group of friends, to a multiple-people conversation that's pretty hard to find in a 1-on-1. Tradeoffs.

  9. Dammit, I wish I could have an in person conversation with you! I'd probably be left in the dust regarding your reading capacity, but I still love to talk about books and reading even though I manage to get only about one or two pages a day, and favour authors like Bernard Cornwell!

    On the question of sports, I am not very knowledgeable or indeed interested, for the most part. I do like to occasionally watch a bit of Australian Rules Football because OMG the players *drool*. I also like cycling, but I'm not very knowledgeable about that either except perhaps for the *ahem* aerodynamic properties of lycra. Usually, I nod off after a while, lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the pedals. :P

    ps I can never work out how to log in here.

  10. You should pick an obscure sport and just start following it. Eventually it'll catch on that you're the girl who loves squash. Then that's all they'll talk about whenever you're in the room!

    It works for me.

  11. @W
    Does it really? (Totally does not feel up to the task of converting people from The Cult of Football to Squash!Love. Maybe I'll make up a sport.

  12. Well, it sort of works. My coworkers end up making comments (I picked hockey) due to my unnatural love of that sport, but hey, it stops them from talking about something I know nothing about and back on to me. Which is good for something. I'll take a half-victory than nothing at all.

  13. @W
    Hockey! I actually know something about hockey...grew up in a place where every day after school the neighborhood kids would play on the ice for hours. Hmm...will have to consider.

    Also, half-victories are the salt of the earth. I'd be nowhere without them.

  14. Yes! Another fan! That sounds a lot of fun. Wish I grew up playing it.

    You should do it. It's hard to undoctrinate football cultists, but at least you can nod and say "yes, speaking of beautiful football passes, imagine how much more talent and skill it takes to pass while lurching on ice on one foot!" (Or any special moves of the sport of your choice).

    I think you'll win your boss' heart in an instant.

  15. @Willa
    I never really played it but we did a mandatory unit in gym every year.

    I just realized, the opportunities sports provides for man-oogling are splendiferous (or woman oogling). My cousin and I were watching men's volleyball once and we were!!

  16. Hmm, men's volleyball. Not a follower of it but I believe you. Soccer's a good one to watch too, or so I've heard.

    On another topic, I'm amused that you sometimes call me Willa. Almost makes me want to change my name to it. I feel that just the initial is too Gossip Girl.

  17. @W
    I'm not really either, but it was on TV and they were pretty and and and...mkaies, I'm gonna have to check out soccer.
    Ahh, sorry about that! I know someone called Willa so I decided you'd be Willa. Or maybe you secretly wrote My Antonia?

  18. Lol, I am found out.

    In all seriousness, I have never heard of that book before (I know, and I call myself a book blogger) but after Googling it, I'm convinced I have to read it.

  19. @W---

    (oh my lord, I typed Willa out. I had to delete it and everything. In my head you are now firmly a Willa!)

    I remember reading it when I was little and being impressed by the descriptions of shiny pots and pans. I'm pretty sure that's not a major plot point. I look forward to your review...that way I can figure out if I should re-read! ^_^