That’s Interesting: How To Tell


Are you interesting? Well, everyone is interesting to themselves, except for one Arthrop P Canticle of Springfield, Massachusetts, who realized that he was so uninteresting — despite what would seem a promising name inherited from a pranking great-uncle — that he couldn’t be bothered to keep reminding himself to breathe. He went on to spend three years under continuous observation at the bottom of Billy Rose’s famous Aquacade without once taking a breath, without anyone paying him any attention. We should probably check if he’s still there. That would be interesting, except, you know Arthrop.

Still, you may gather evidence that you’re not actually interesting to other people, which is the trick. People might stop asking you how you’re doing once they catch on that you tell them, for example, or folks who think of you in passing stretch and go upstairs to bed, even when they’re the ones visiting your home.

But you can be more interesting if you really want to, and are willing to make some effort. For example, you might try taking in a lecture series on “How To Be Interesting”, as offered by many web sites that fully hope to be accredited by other web sites someday. Shop around with these. Take advantage of any free lectures you might be able to cadge. Don’t take courses from that one professor who keeps yawning. He’s just using the course to sell his textbooks, and they’re not even the ones he wrote. He just needs to clean out some stuff from grad school.

The key to being interesting is that you have to be not too surprising. That you have to be surprising at all is obvious because, here, try being interested in this completely unsurprising conversation:

NEIL: How’re you doing?

MICHEAL: Fine, you?

NEIL: Can’t complain.

MICHEAL: I would if I could.

NEIL: Aren’t you spelling your name wrong?

MICHEAL: Does it matter?

NEIL: What does?

See? So uninteresting I couldn’t even get where I meant to go with that, which I think was something about observing the existence of Fridays and/or the nearness of one. I couldn’t even bother fixing the typo and tried to cover for it instead. That second speaker’s name should be ‘NEAL’.

Once you know you have to be surprising the easy mistake to make is trying to be too surprising. This doesn’t make you interesting; it makes you that tedious kind-of-friend who’s got problems that are too much to bother with. Trying again:

NEIL: How’re you doing?

NEAL: Well! I haven’t had a chance of keeping guacamole in the house since the documentarians have been crowded all over because of that abandoned subway they found from that failed Olympic bid, remember from the time I had those burglars who were tunnelling into the convenience store the wrong way, because they’re hungry naturally and we have all those avocados from the farm the land bank put up where the garage that melted used to be when they made that surveying error and that doesn’t begin to count the times robots from the contra-terrene world have popped in to grab precious supplies of mica which apparently I’ve got now. You?

NEIL: [ Has already left. ]

The ideal is to keep having stuff that’s going on that’s a little surprising, but not so surprising as to be tiresome. This is particularly important for you shapeshifters out there. I know you want to show off by popping in on some new form every time someone sees you for the first time, but, bluntly, after about four different shapes they all just blend together and we accuse you of being cheap CGI. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. You should pick on two, maybe three shapes, and do them really well. When you want to put on a new one, chop up the surprise into digestible pieces by telling us, first, that you’re thinking of trying something new, like maybe collecting vinyl records or turning into a goat, and then say you’re working on that goat-record thing, and finally get all ungulate. This way you’re not just yet another friend with complicated problems but a goat we don’t have to find tiresome.

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