Seth Brown | The Pun Also Rises: 2020 greetings

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I no longer know how to interact with people.

I realize that on the list of problems that 2020 has brought us, social ineptitude is pretty far down the list, but nobody wants to read a humor column about myocarditis, so here we are. Although I spend most of my time as a hermit in the proud tradition of antisocial writers everywhere, on rare occasion I find myself wanting to converse with a friend. And as it turns out, opening conversation in 2020 is somewhat difficult.

After saying hello, I'm pretty much at a loss for how not to immediately devolve into commiserating about how terrible the world is. And I really don't want to talk about how terrible the world is, because I am already thinking about that every five minutes thanks to steady Facebook and Twitter feeds of hellish updates informing me that the West Coast is on fire, coronavirus is causing a 9/11's worth of deaths every three days, TV personalities are defending murderers, the administration continues downplaying this pandemic, and they're getting a head start on the next pandemic by allowing diseased chickens to be used in poultry processing plants.

And that's just what I saw this afternoon.

So the usual conversation starters are feeling pretty dated to me at this point in time. "Hope this email finds you well." Well, then maybe you should have sent it before 2020. "What's new?" According to Twitter, three more colleges with coronavirus outbreaks. "How are you?" That question is grounds for justifiable homicide.

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(And now I have to explain that's a joke, because apparently in 2020 too many people have forgotten that homicide is not justified and seem content to support a little murdering here and there as long as it's being done by people they agree with and the victims are people they don't like.)

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Indeed, trying to start conversation in any of the normal ways is just a fast path to misery. Which is why I've taken the kindergarten friendship strategy of just leaping right in and telling people whatever you feel like talking about, regardless of whether they want to hear it. And yes, I realize I could have just started another podcast, but I'm aiming for the more personal touch.

So, the other day I decided to clean out my wallet, and as usual, I realized that it contained far too little money, and far too much other junk. Highlights included a debit card which expired in 2014, and two Washington DC Metro tickets with 10 cents remaining on them, remnants of a time when someone might travel across the country and then use public transport.

But mostly what I found in my wallet was a pile of increasingly arcane contact information. First there was the large stack of business cards I've acquired over the years and failed to remove from my wallet until last week. But at least these were partially useful because they had people's names, email/phone, and at least some indication of what they do.

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On the back of one card was my phone number list for when I used to travel to visit friends. As I had squeeze to fit it all on one card, these were all single letters followed by a phone number, like M: 413-555-1234. I just had to know that J stands for Josh and S stands for Steve and E stands for Emily. Luckily, I have fewer than 26 friends, so this has never presented a problem. Of course, I can't make new friends now with the good letters, but if you know anyone awesome named Xavier or Zelda, feel free to introduce me.

I also found a few random phone numbers and email addresses with not so much as a letter attached, I guess in case I never need to call a random person who I probably met once in the past decade. And then I found a few pieces of paper with arcane codes like DX1122, PCN:ADV, and one that just says Friday Big Y 61060. If they ever build a Big Y in Illinois, I guess I'm supposed to meet someone there?

So it's possible that even before 2020, I was bad at interacting with people. And it's possible you didn't care what was in my wallet. But at least I avoided asking how you were.

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse", and blames Capital One for this column. His website is RisingPun.com.


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