artphoto by splunge
artphoto by TheophileEscargot
artphoto by Kronos_to_Earth
artphoto by ethylene





Mecha Wiki

Metachat Eye


IRC Channels



Comment Feed:


16 May 2007

You walk into a room of twenty people. How do you assess the situation? [More:]

Who is more or less attractive than yourself? Who is a sales prospect or romantic interest? Who looks lonely?

I had this conversation with a friend recently and she found me refreshingly crazy.

I do a quick scan almost subconsciously to see A - who I might be able to save if Something Bad Happened, and B - who I could or could not take in a fair fight.

I actually Size People Up, I guess. Which leads me to - Boxing Weight Classes.

No, I'm not a fan, yes I believe it's a sport, though the industry is surely corrupt.

I was curious and I like the names.

(I'm some kinda welterweight depending on the system used and if I try to make weight or not.)
I give 'em a suitable roller derby name.
posted by chewatadistance 16 May | 06:12
If I'm alone, I'll find the people most likely to start talking to me and sit as far away from them as possible.
posted by backseatpilot 16 May | 06:30
I immediately look for backseatpilot, then go over and start talking to him.
posted by taz 16 May | 06:45
I'd do her... do her... wouldn't do her.... Whew! who hasn't done her?! ...Lose the pigtails and we'll talk...
posted by mike9322 16 May | 06:55
Do I know any of them? If so, do I feel comfortable with them? BUT, I went right up to my other the first time I saw him...I NEVER do this--even if I find someone attractive.
posted by brujita 16 May | 07:08
In all fairness, this doesn't happen to me as these situations make me extremely uncomfortable. I don't like being crowded especially by people I don't know and I'm sure it's too loud in there. 20 people = too much noise

OK, with that being said, I head straight to the bar for a drink and take an extended assessment while I wait for it. Then I go to the people I know and use them as a base for more checking. Then I find someone who looks as uncomfortable as I'm feeling, see if I do them and then ask them if they want to ditch the party and go for a walk.
posted by LunaticFringe 16 May | 07:24
Do I recognize anybody? Who smiles back when I smile at them? (And is there an empty seat?)
posted by PaxDigita 16 May | 07:40
Where can I hide?
posted by essexjan 16 May | 07:53
What kind of room is it? Is it a party? Bar? Meeting? Reading? Show?

My approach depends completely on the type of group and my purpose for being there.
posted by Miko 16 May | 08:22
I do really, really well in crowds of people where no one knows each other and I can step in as ring leader. But if I'm odd man out, I'll sniff around the perimeter and try to figure out who the alpha dog is and how strongly their approval is needed for acceptance. Then, I look for the friendliest member of the group, cozy up to them and let them introduce me to the pack.
posted by jrossi4r 16 May | 08:37
But before all that, I find all the exits and places to hide in case of emergency.
posted by jrossi4r 16 May | 08:39
To me it doesn't mattter Miko, it's more of an instinct thing, it doesn't affect my interractions. Say a party or a work function where you know some but not all of the people.

My friend thought this was actually a saner version of women checking out other women to see who is skinnier or prettier or more fashionable (or less). I confessed to doing that sometimes, only with size, and only in situations where I'm confronted with it - the gym, the beach, auditions. I recognize what's happening though and can self talk myself into stopping that pretty easily.

My instinctual scan is not limited to the other women - I note any children present and identify the strongest men. Maybe in case I need help.

posted by rainbaby 16 May | 08:50
I usually just look for the booze.
posted by jonmc 16 May | 09:05

No, it's situation-dependent for me. Let's say it's a fundraiser for a local cause. Basically, I go in and smile all around. I'll usually find someone I know right away and greet them brightly and chat for a few minutes while I get acclimated. Then I'll go hang up my coat or claim a table or whatever, and take a couple minutes of solitude to just stand or sit and observe what's happening. In social/fun settings like this, I mainly look for people who might be interesting or cool to talk to. I spend a lot of time talking to people I know, and letting them introduce me to people I don't know yet. I vary rarely 'cold chat' with people I haven't been introduced to, because I don't really know how to make those conversations go somewhere and I'm impatient with small talk. Being drawn into a conversation by a mutual acquaintance is a lot easier. I mill about a lot. I like to try to get around and talk to everybody that I know at least a little.

In a meeting, though, I walk in and look at who's in attendance in terms of their political power, support or opposition, or knowledge. In most meetings there are decisions to be made and usually I am going in with a goal, a point of view or a position to advocate. So in those settings I'm taking stock of who is likely to be my opposition, what they are likely to say, and the best way I can think to advance my argument. I also try to ascertain who might be enlisted to support the position I'm going to advocate.

There's one large-ish nonprofit group which I lead. Walking into those meetings is different, I know most people already, and simply hope that on the meeting day they have good energy and enthusiasm. My job is just to keep everyone focused on our stated goals, bring around consensus, and avoid meeting derails. The first few social minutes of milling around let me check in to see whether individuals are ready to present, are bringing a new idea to the table, or whether they've made progress on their projects. Kind of taking the temperature of the group. I also am running an agenda in my head and trying to figure out who might need more time, who might need to be cut short if they go on too long, etc.

In all three scenarios, I guess I'm sizing up a group to think of how best to spend the next few hours of my time in order to end with some sort of gain - having had a good time and met new people, having achieved a decision, or having moved toward goals. Very utilitarian.

When I was younger I used to spend a lot of time worrying about who was prettier or thinner. Thank God, for some reason, that has totally stopped bothering me.
posted by Miko 16 May | 09:16
I get thrilled in crowds, and often just stand there with a smile. It's like an out-of-body experience for me. I feel rather wriggly and shy inside, and I've always overcome that by being natural and gregarious. I have a tendency to seek out uncomfortable people and try to make them more comfortable, either by talking to the quiet ones about whatever they're interested in, or providing relief for folks whose ears are being bent off: say someone has been cornered by a guy who wants to talk about nothing but the eBay market for Mets collectibles. The quarry looks at me with pleading eyes, so I walk up and say, "You haven't introduced me to your friend, but I couldn't help overhearing he's a Mets memorabilia collector. That's interesting." Then I talk and listen (and learn a lot about some obscure shit) and my new friend says, "Excuse me, I'm gonna get a drink," and I say, "Do you mind bringing me one?" and they go off and have fun while I animatedly get into some esoteric details with this dude and his obsession. I like to observe most of all, but I deploy myself when needed, for comic relief, or comfort, or protection, or shenanigans.

I'm thrilled by crowds, and my reaction is super-friendly, but I feel a little lost in them, as well. Like I'd rather be at home reading a book, though I know if I was home I'd wish my walls were people. What I'd like most is a way to get together with friends and strangers and read books -- not talk about books, mind you; just read them -- and somehow be social at the same time.
posted by Hugh Janus 16 May | 09:17
What I'd like most is a way to get together with friends and strangers and read books

I have a group of friends who I used to rent a beach house for a week every summer. We've stopped since many have had children/moved away, but they were great weeks. The best part about it was that we were all like this. A good chunk of each day was spent with each of 10 or so people lounged out on chairs or blankets, or across the beach-house living room all silently immersed in his or her own book, speaking only occasionally. It was wonderful to be in a crowd of people where reading was considered a pleasant sociable activity rather than rude.
posted by Miko 16 May | 09:21
My parents do that; they've done it all my life, just sitting there of an evening, maybe listening to music together, maybe not, but reading, silently, by themselves, together.

I've had friends who were shocked that my parents never really go out (now that they're retired and grandparents, they go to concerts and plays and visit my nephew, but most evenings they just sit, silently reading, until bedtime) or have friends in the neighborhood who they do things with, but they're happier than most people, and they simply love one another's company.

Since everyone in my family is constantly reading, the dinner conversations are always fascinating.

Whoah. I just welled up with a serious longing to see my parents.
posted by Hugh Janus 16 May | 09:30
I like to do that, Hugh. Sometimes me and mr. g go to a cafe for a couple of hours to read. It feels like we're getting out "doing something" while still being nice and quiet and cozy.
posted by gaspode 16 May | 09:41
In a crowd of twenty I try to find somewhere to park on the edge of the room and just watch for a bit. I'm pretty outgoing one-on-one or in small groups, but in larger groups I get all shy for some reason, and it takes me a while to "warm up" to the group.
posted by BoringPostcards 16 May | 09:49
1. Bar.
2. Food.
3. Who do I know?
4. Go over and stand near them clutching drink & dangerously sloping paper plate of cherry tomatos & crab dip.
5. Smile vaguely.
6. Look for cute guys. Spot a couple. Be too shy to speak with them.
7. Hope someone speaks to me.
8. Have 2 drinks and speak with someone I know vaguely.
9. Leave.
10. Wish I was better at this stuff.
posted by mygothlaundry 16 May | 09:52
This situation occurs quite often for me since I started playing poker seriously. I am looking for "who knows what they are doing" and "who can adapt quickly to a new situation".
posted by mischief 16 May | 10:02
My first thought is usually "which one of these dryhumpers needs a wedgie"?

Second thought is usually "who dares have more agreeable pantaloons than I"?

posted by Hellbient 16 May | 10:16
Miko & Hugh hit it - let's have a reading meetup.
posted by chewatadistance 16 May | 10:17
Ok. But if the building collapses, or fisticuffs ensue, I'll know where I stand.

So, ah. . .this maybe a not too normal thing I do. I embrace it, though.
posted by rainbaby 16 May | 10:22
Miko, Hugh -- I am having a Harry Potter reading party at about 1 a.m. July 21st. If you want to drag your asses out to Westchester, you are more than welcome. There will be one room where talking is allowed. Everywhere else it's booze and silence.

As for me, when I walk into a party-like scenario with 20 people or so, these are the steps I take:

1. Booze
2. Look to see if there's a patio to smoke on
3. Who do I know?
4. Oh, look, there's that guy I know from that place.
5. Nah. Booze.
posted by brina 16 May | 10:28
PS. That invite applies to all, not just Hugh and Miko. Unless you're an axe murderer. Then you can't come until you provide a notarized letter from a reputable psychiatrist stating that you're no longer a threat to society.
posted by brina 16 May | 10:32
a notarized letter from a reputable psychiatrist stating that you're no longer a threat to society.

I just went ahead and had mine laminated.

Because of the blood.
posted by Hellbient 16 May | 10:39
Reading parties! Genius!

Are other types of murderers ok? Poisoners, for instance?
posted by Miko 16 May | 11:28
Poisoners are fine. Bonus points if you dress as Lucrezia Borgia.

No other costumes allowed. Anyone in Hogwarts uniform will be hit upside the head with a bottle of butterbeer, then ejected from premises.

hellbient: Please wipe the blood off before presenting your letter. Thank you.
posted by brina 16 May | 11:32
Good party trick - turn the lights off, scream real loud, turn lights back on and exclaim that your lover is missing and that no one should leave the room. When they realize it's a joke (see how long it takes, make bets with friends before hand), you'll be the hit of the party! If you're too shy to say your lover is missing, just say your drink is missing.
Class-y move any way you cut it.
posted by Hellbient 16 May | 11:48
I listen to the room to see what mood the crowd is in.
posted by halonine 16 May | 12:01
"a notarized letter from a reputable psychiatrist stating that you're no longer a threat to society"

side note: I was somewhat surprised at what my shrink considered normal. Apparently "lying asshole on a thin thread for violence" describes the bulk of all humans.
posted by mischief 16 May | 12:08
I'm sorry, brina, but I don't like Harry Potter. Could I bring William Gaddis, or would he spoil the mood?
posted by Hugh Janus 16 May | 12:16
What we did at Bunnystock was issue axes to everyone. That way, all of us were equally armed, because, you know, we were all from the internet and therefore all axe murderers, who, it is known, are all into computers. We found that this detente model served us well at Bunnystock in that no axe murderers were axe murdered during the course of our axe murderer convention.

Poisoners don't use the internet; they use carrier pigeons.
posted by mygothlaundry 16 May | 12:25
mgl, that is an excellent idea. do you know where i can purchase a large shipment of axes?

hugh, you can bring any book you want, but just beware you'll be in a room full of freaky harry potter nerds who were at the bookstore at midnight to get their first edition/first printing/special pretty copies of the latest book.
posted by brina 16 May | 12:43
i would head to the bar and ever afterwards do what my belly of booze instructs me to.
posted by Mrs.Pants 16 May | 14:53
Like miko, it depends on the situation. I generally look to see if there's someone I'm friendly with and, hopefully, stand/sit next to him/her. If not, I find a corner and try to disappear.
posted by deborah 16 May | 15:32
Almost without exception (an exception would be 20 MeChazens, for example), a room with 20 people in it is one I am not likely to enter willingly. If I do, I would glom on to any person I know, even remotely, and stick with them. otherwise, I will find the one spot in the room with the greatest distance from all other persons and stand there silently until I can leave.
posted by dg 16 May | 19:09
Enter the room, smiling at everyone, and look for any familiar faces. If I don't recognize anyone, I head for the bar or the food, and make small talk with people there. For some reason, I generally don't have a problem talking to strangers, unless I'm just not at my best. I take after my mother - she could make friends standing in line at the movies.
posted by redvixen 16 May | 19:27
This is a great post.
posted by jason's_planet 16 May | 20:49
It really does depend on the circumstances.

If it's a work-related thing, I'm not even there - I've made my excuses days beforehand. If it's absolutely inescapable, I'll make polite social noises with as few people as possible and leave the second it's no longer rude to do so. While many of my co-workers are fine people, I already spend 40+ hours a week with them; I'd rather hang with Science Girl.

If it's strictly a social event, I'll find somebody I know and chat with them. I hate making small talk with strangers. For one thing, it's really difficult for me to track conversation in a room full of people, since I've only got one fully-functional ear. Plus, I really just don't like people. I like individuals just fine, but groups of more than, say, ten or so are not my thing. The only way I can deal with an entire room full of strangers is to drink heavily, so I generally avoid that sort of thing when possible.

If there are animals or kids present, I would most likely be interacting with them. Dogs and toddlers are infinitely more interesting than most adult humans.

So, to actually answer the question: I size up the group for people I know, pets, or kids. If there are none of the above, I'll be at the bar until I can gracefully leave.
posted by bmarkey 16 May | 21:25
I like to sit reading and nursing the ice from my drinks in a well-lit bar too.

NO ONE should have to be backed into a corner, crowded, followed and stared at by a creepy stranger who is desperate to get laid.
posted by brujita 17 May | 01:02
I really like halonine's answer.
posted by rainbaby 17 May | 07:23
hellbient, yours is my QotD
posted by crush-onastick 17 May | 11:12
Hmmm... || Pieces from the Iraqi Quagmire Chess Set.