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A Fool’s Bargain

July 17, 2008

A friend of mine called the other night with a query. He had encountered a situation at a dinner gathering and couldn’t figure out how to handle it. So he dialed The Truth.

Here’s the situation: My friend, who I’ll call Poughkeepsie Bill, was at a restaurant with 15 people, only a few of whom he knew. He was stuck at the boring end of the table, so he began tuning in to the conversation at the fun end. There, at the far side of the table, a guy was talking about the movie Juno.

“Who directed that?” someone asked.

“Oh, the Coen Brothers,” the dude responded casually. “I love their films.”

My friend knew right away that the Coen Brothers did not direct Juno. In fact, Poughkeepsie Bill happens to be a big Jason Reitman fan, so he didn’t like hearing that Reitman wasn’t getting his due.

A few other people at the far end of the table knew that something was off about the guy’s answer, but no one knew the actual director, so after a brief disagreement, the guy convinced everyone that the Coen Brothers had indeed directed Ellen Page in last year’s indie hit.

The guy closed with some bonus knowledge about the Coen Brothers. “Yeah, I loved No Country for Old Men. And of course, The Big Lebowski is my favorite movie.”

A few notes about that statement: One, if the Coen Brothers somehow had time to film both Juno and No Country for Old Men last year, then they must have recently added some male siblings to their clan. Two, I would pay good money to see so a No Country for Old Men version of Juno. Michael Cera would sport the pageboy haircut and a limp, and he would obsessively follow Juno around Texas as she tries to transport her “cargo” to safer grounds. It would be a dark comedy, like the original. No Country for Young Juno.

My friend’s query was as follows: In a situation like this, when you know someone is clearly wrong and needs to be corrected, but you’re out of talking distance, what do you do?

My solution: Be patient. In these situations, making sure everyone is well informed is not the main objective. The primary goal is making sure at least one of the ill-informed parties knows that the provider of the false information is a fool. This is more about comeuppance than clarification.

So be patient and wait until the end of the dinner party when people are gathering their things and milling about. Sidle up to one of the people from the far side of the table and mention that you heard them talking about Juno. (It’s fine if you mention a broad topic like that. If you mention specifics, it’ll be clear that you were unabashedly eavesdropping on their conversation.)

They’ll confirm that they were talking about Juno. That’s when you say, “Great movie. Jason Reitman is a genius.”

There will be some confusion, because they were so recently informed that the Coen Brothers directed the movie. But they’ll quickly come around, since you are, in fact, providing them with the correct information.

Once you’re on the same page, you squint and say something like, “Uh, who told you that the Coen Brothers directed Juno?”

They’ll point out the person.

“Oh,” you’ll say. “He was way off.”

This is where the floodgates open. You’ve now created the bond of information with this person, and you’ve created the new possibility for the bond of ridicule directed toward the purveyor of false information. Puns are allowed here, as are mother-related insults and simple plays on words:

“Big Lebowski? More like Big Idiot-owski.”

(See what I did there? I dropped the “Leb” and added “Idiot.” You can do this with any word.)

“No Country for Old Men? More like No Knowledge of Reit-men.”

After the dinner party is completely over, you can walk away satisfied that you got the upper hand over that dude. You win. (There are very few ways to actually win a dinner party, which is rarely a competitive sport. So if you win, this is a huge accomplishment.)

Also, as an afterthought, I think this guy probably confused Fargo with Juno. Again, a Fargo version of Juno would be quite interesting.

“Fargo? More like Far-go away.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. aquavator permalink
    July 30, 2008 7:49 pm

    Seriously thinking Juno was a Coen brothers film is punishable by incredulous stares and immediate refutation, dinner party or not.

    Also, why does it take a week for your RSS feed to reach my email?

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