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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Comfort levels, parties, & structure

Ordinarily I don’t feel very comfortable at parties if most of people are unknown to me. When most of the attendees are friends of mine, I’ll enjoy the party, but my comfort level goes down as the number of strangers goes up.

So why did I feel perfectly OK about today’s annual Open House of the Dorchester Historical Society? There must have been 50 or 60 people there — far too many for my usual comfort level. To make matters worse, Barbara and I were assigned to be bartenders, and what do I know about tending bar? Nothing! That should have made matters worse.

But it actually turned out to be just fine. I have two possible explanations:
  • The only drinks we had available were four kinds of wine and three flavors of seltzer, so no particular skills were needed in tending bar.

  • The “job” of bartender imposed a structure on the evening, so I didn’t have to circulate and make spontaneous conversation. Actually, the experience had something in common with teaching. Outsiders sometimes wonder how introverts can possibly enjoy teaching, but there’s a simple explanation: the natural structure of a course, a classroom, and even out-of-class interactions mitigates the feeling of “What do I say now?”

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