Look, just don’t mention the trait…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quotation is from The Sign of Four:
At the Lyceum Theatre the crowds were already thick at the side entrances. In front a continuous stream of hansoms and four-wheelers were rattling up, discharging their cargoes of shirt-fronted men and beshawled, bediamonded women. We had hardly reached the third pillar, which was our rendezvous, before a small, dark, brisk man in the dress of a coachman accosted us…
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sometimes, when you are in the company of someone who has a particular trait (trait – is that the right word? Hm, I think so – I just Googled it to make sure…) there can be a little bit of tension in the air, not a lot, but just a little bit.
The person must be aware that other people are aware of their trait, they often seem to be quite open about it, and appear to have  come to terms with it, but, the social convention demands that we behave as if this trait does not in fact exist, or if it does exist, it is really of little consequence.
This can be especially tricky when the person in question deliberately makes light of their trait; they give a little smile and a carefree shrug when they happen to make some fleeting and oblique reference to it.
There are many many possible traits folk can acquire, but I think the more popular ones could be: being unusually penny-pinching and tight with money; exhibiting eccentric behaviour in private and in public places; being quite fond of various kinds of drugs and/or alcohol; enjoying out-and-out gluttony and being ‘slightly overweight’; being arrogant and totally self obsessed, thinking that the whole world revolves around them…  Those are all I can come up with just at the moment dear reader, but I’m sure you can add one or two from the people that you know.
When in the company of a person with a trait and the conversation seems to be veering towards almost mentioning it, you should generally keep quiet, and just smile and nod every now and again, implying that this is all quite normal, and that everyone has a little foible or two. (I just Googled foible to make sure that it was the right word – what a very nice word foible is!)
In a situation like this, what you should not do is to say is anything that directly addresses the non-existent trait; you should avoid anything that could even suggest that the person might have a trait, and definitely do not offer any advice on how it could perhaps be managed in some way – no, stop, you have already gone too far… Danger lies ahead… see that look in their eyes?
You are on the slippery slope towards a bout of table fist thumping, bulging eyes, sneers, spilled tea, raised voices, tears and tissues – and, being excommunicated from their Facebook page – see, they are sobbing and tapping away on their phone already…
Gosh, I’m glad that I haven’t got any annoying traits…

 

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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9 Responses to Look, just don’t mention the trait…

  1. memadtwo says:

    Foible is really quite a wonderful word. I’ll have to come up with a situation where I can use it today…

  2. I have two traits, both of them equally terrible. In fact, you could say they are co-joined traits, as they occur in conversation. The first one is that I finish off peoples sentences before they have uttered them, but not only that, I replace the word I think they were going to use, with something “posher”. For example, if someone said “Oh, he went down the stairs so fast he tripped over his….” (Me) “….feet, yes he does sound rather hasty…” Whereupon they pause and stare quite huffily before carrying on. I really must learn to hush my mouth 😀

  3. P.S They were going to “own arse” – that’s a saying up here.

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