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Jeff Werner

Designer in Vancouver, Canada. Secretary of the 221A Artist Run Centre, member of Fieldwork design collective, and former exhibit designer at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Vancouver Aquarium. Graduate of Emily Carr and University of Victoria, and worked in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Netherlands. Cycling advocate and race on the Garneau Evolution team.

canada victoria Daily Activities, June 28, 2004 12:39 AM 0 comments

Replacing awkward moments with awkwarder ones

There's those awkward moments, when mingling at parties, which are to be expected and tactfully diverted, yet will occasionally bubble over into all-out social miscarriages like a barroom brawl.

I've been treated to two such moments the two times I've interacted with what must surely be a nice young couple I know through work. Yet in my misguided haste to avoid pauses and make them feel at ease in new territory, I always manage to come down with foot-in-mouth disease, as a friend recently described it.

First I thought she was German, the second half of this couple, based on the words "hello" and "nice to meet you."

So, you're an exchange student to Canada?

She's not entirely thrilled at my assumption, understandably, since people from Quebec are CANADIAN.

So, er, you're living in Victoria then?

Well ya, I'm not on a date with this guy; I'm married to him.


During our second encounter, at a pleasant Sunday porch social (superb as usual, fine host), a bee was buzzing near her and without hesitation the husband, touchingly, arranges to switch seats with her. I've seen it before, that look of medical fear in the eye of someone allergic to stings, taking simple but immediate and well-rehearsed measures. So I'm thinking ahead of our engrossing conversations re: adrenaline shots, sting kits, childhood sting stories--a veritable roundtable regaling that the whole party would enjoy, which I would instigate with an innocuous and informed "Ah, allergic to bees, eh?"

Of course I forget I've seen that look of fear in the eyes of friends who could probably survive a hundred bee stings but, like, just really don't like bees. Which was her case as well.

To assume really does make an ass out of you and me. But it's like neither party involved, from their respective perspectives, intentionally launched or grossly mis-received the awkwardness. Some awkward moments, like a nightclub bouncer, are gonna knock you down and twist your arm even if you're a nice guy. You just don't have a chance. Fighting back will only hurt you more. You should go limp, swallow the hit, fall and roll like rubber. Jump back up again, collect your dignity, and try somewhere else.

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