Whether it’s a wedding with a hidden agenda, a christening that goes too far or simply a party-based conversation that is making you consider a trip to the Dignitas clinic, we all find ourselves in awkward social situations with alarming frequency. And unless you’re an Estate Agent, you don’t want to just use rudeness to extract yourself from the arena of woe. So how can you get out of there without any lasting damage to your standing in the community? Here are a few tips, tricks and techniques…
The water that leaps from your face can be the fuel for your escape in practically every terrible scenario. No matter what the conversation concerns or the occasion denotes, once things are starting to veer towards the interminable, just place a hand to your cheek, say something like ‘Oh Martin, how could you?’ while staring off into the distance and let the waterworks fly. If they insist on helping you in your time of emotional grief, just tell them you need to take an important tablet and head to the bathroom.
MAKE YOUR PHONE DO SOMETHING
Why were the bad old days so bad? Because no one had a mobile phone that could be used to vault yourself out of any terrible situation. They are a godsend. Personally, if I’m at a party or event that I fear could be a chore, I just set the alarm on my phone to go off every five minutes. Then apply the magic words ‘Oh, sorry, I must take this’ then you’re out. If you fail to set your alarm, merely act as if your phone is on vibrate and has just buzzed. Then head to the bathroom.
I appreciate this is slightly more radical, but this is your precious time we are talking about and you can’t waste a second of it talking to a wally, so drastic can often be the only direction to travel in. This doesn’t have to be a valuable or sentimental item, just the glass you’re holding or some ornament that you brush up against in an innocuous manner. Obviously you can be overtly regretful for your clumsiness and offer to reimburse them for a replacement, a small price to pay for that level of distraction. Make your apologies, claim to be looking for a dustpan and head to the bathroom.
This may not be the technique for everyone, but it can be very effective, especially on planes. If you are trapped with someone who insists on a long and deliberate conversation, when they are in full flow, just place your finger to your lips and emit a loud, audible ‘SHUSH’ while smiling serenely. They will be too stunned to continue speaking, giving you a chance to saunter away, still grinning and head to the bathroom.
TURN THE CONVERSATION IS A DISTURBING DIRECTION
Three little words that can untangle you from any painful discussion you find yourself in. ‘Just like Satan’. Every time the blowhard who is yabbering at you reached the end of a sentence, just add ‘Yeah, just like Satan’ while nodding sagely. After five or six of these, they’ll either slowly back away or start to look around for assistance. This gives you ample opportunity to make some subtle grunting noises under your breath, then dash to the bathroom.
PRETEND TO BE A SPY
This one is effective and fun! While you’re being introduced to a selection of interminable individuals or shown someone’s new pelmet, begin to glance around the room nervously, then start to speak into your coat cuff (make sure you’re wearing a coat). Try to make it sound espionage-y by using words like ‘target’, ‘objective’ and ‘Mendoza’. Then take any item out of your pocket – a pen, a stick of gum, a travel card – stare at it intently and then say, ‘I have to go’ in a panicked fashion. Then you are free to hide in the bathroom.
Smoke bombs can be very useful when you are trying to flee an awkward sitch, but they are expensive and not too healthy in enclosed spaces. However, indoor fireworks are perfect for the purpose. These incendiaries are designed to be used internally, so their activation should be perfectly safe and even quite entertaining, with the right audience. Just keep a few Catherine Wheels and Happy Flappers in your pocket and when crisis point is reached, carefully ignite them, drop them and stand well back. While everyone else is busy wondering where all that exploding is coming from, you’ll be in the bathroom.
HIDE IN THE BATHROOM
Of course, the best thing to do is cut out the middleman altogether and run to the bathroom as soon as you enter the building. Say hello to a couple of people, then clutch your stomach and grimace dramatically, performing the international mime for ‘I have tummy trouble’. Find the nearest bathroom and stay there. You can try to gauge the type of party that’s taking place outside by listening carefully at the door or by the angry knocks of other guests needing the facilities. If all seems fine, leave your refuge and enjoy yourself. If you get the feeling it’s a dud, then clamber through the window and gently lower yourself to the ground and then begin to run. I always take a few toiletries on the way out. Make the whole thing worthwhile.