The Doctor is in this week for Spring Break, and I'm so glad, but his early morning departure this weekend looms large. I'll miss him when he goes, of course, and rationally I know that I'll see him again in a few months, and then for lots of months evermore, but the real problem with our upcoming parting is the painfully awkward goodbye I'm sure to offer.
I've never been good with goodbye's, partings, definitive exits of any kind. Particularly when I am the one doing the leaving. This is true in dramatic scenarios, but also when I'm done lunch or have to piss. If half the fun of going someplace is in getting there, half the misery of leaving that place is planning your exit.
Dream: Perform the perfect exit.
Goal: Achievable. This phenomenon was perfectly articulated in that Seinfeld episode where George gets extremely frustrated because he can never leave his colleagues laughing at meetings. Jerry advises him to always “leave on a high note.” George takes this advice to heart and leaves a room whenever he successfully gets a laugh, aware that he'll be unable to top himself. I embrace this ideal, as does, apparently, Republican candidate Mitt Romney who said when greeted by cheers at a recent rally, “As George Costanza would say, when they're applauding, stop." Maybe we should just all clap for Mitt Romney then.
Plan: Emulate the qualities that make a graceful social exit. Such as:
Whatever the opposite of TMI (too much information) is. SI (sufficient information)? Let's go with SI. I'm prone to leave any phone conversation, gathering of friends, coterie of co-workers by blathering on in detail about my next activities, as if they matter to anyone. Instead of saying, “Great to see you, I hope we can do this again soon. Bye!” I say, “Well, I have to go to the bathroom and then run to the store because I thought I had butter but it turns out I don't and if I can't hit the store before it closes I won't have any butter and so no toast for me! Ha ha.” No one cares! Get out of there!
Poignancy. The last line of one of my favourite books, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant compares the droning of an airplane overhead to a bumblebee, and the comparison evokes a great deal of emotion when regarded in the larger context of the novel. Eudora Welty, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer and, according to The Simpsons, fantastic belch-er, said she'd “If I had written [that last line], I'd be happy all my life!” I'd love to be able to leave someone with a sentimental if perfectly illustrative phrase instead of what I usually say (“Move it, fathead, I gotta poop and no foolin'!”).
Irishness. Another great book I just read (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling) and she introduced me to the concept of the Irish Exit, which is what I consistently try to perform at every party even before I knew what it was. An Irish Exit is when you leave a party without telling everyone you're leaving. Kaling suggests telling people you think you left your lights on or glove compartment open, but since I don't have a car, those are useless to me. The Doctor is my savior here because he is a smoker. When he leaves a boring social gathering to light up outside, I have the perfect excuse to grab my jacket and say, vaguely, “Does anyone know if Dr. Jon went outside, or...” and somebody invariably says he did, so I am able to walk out the door, grab my puffing partner and say, “Now's our chance! Run! Don't slow down even if I fall!” and we always make it home. And I should mention, it's not that I hate parties or the people in them, I just don't to waste my time and yours going from person to person and saying “Move it, fathead...”
Humour. Like Constanza, surely my best hope is to leave on a strong joke. The problem is, like anyone who can occasionally say something funny, the temptation is to stay and try to be even funnier. Like, “if that made you titter, get ready to CHORTLE!” but it almost never works. For instance, a group of coworkers and I had to endure a smarmy talking-to from this over-cologned musclehead who considers himself God's gift to women despite being unbelievably sexist and arrogant. When he left, I said to the assembled company, “That guy's Spirit Animal is a penis covered in Axe Body Spray.” Everybody laughed, but mildly. Convinced I could build on that premise, I said, “I bet his parents smeared Aqua di Gio on him and held him up over the savannah like in Lion King, but instead of a desert, there was a parking lot full of skanks and they said, 'One day this will all be yours.'” Too convoluted and wordy, not to mention unfunny, my follow-up fell on deaf ears. But if I had left after Axe Body Spray, I'd still be a hero in their eyes.
Again, I'm forced to credit Dr. Jon here. He says that many traditional First Nations tribes don't say goodbye to each other, because they believe that even if you don't say goodbye to someone before you die, you will always see them again in the Spirit World. I like that idea, even when it's not extrapolated to that degree. If all I can offer you is paltry parting words, it's because I believe that eventually we'll see each other again and pick up right where we left off. It's a nice thought. Now move it, fathead.