Thursday, January 03, 2008

You don't know me at all... lucky you

I don't tend to write about work, but here's another tale from my department holiday luncheon a few weeks ago.

In addition to the white elephant gift exchange mentioned in this post, the luncheon includes a game called "Something you probably don't know about me," which goes like this:

On slips of paper everyone in attendance writes down a fact about himself/herself. These slips of paper are then folded up and put in a basket. Then someone picks one and reads it aloud. Then people make guesses about who they think was the person who wrote it. If within the first three to five guesses (depending on how many the judge decides to allow) someone successfully identifies the writer, that person gets a point; if no one guesses correctly, the writer gets a point. And then at the end there are prizes for the people with the most points.

So, it's something of a variation on To Tell the Truth.

Thus the fact that one chooses to write down should be something that others would not expect of one. Typically the facts involve childhood incidents or mildly-embarrassing-but-endearing anecdotes. Ostensibly the game allows everyone to get to know their co-workers a little better, but there's little genuine insight offered in the tepid revelations. But it is generally amusing.

As each person has only one piece of paper, the game also becomes something of a test of memory, to see if one can recall who has been revealed and who is left. With a large group, however, it tends to prove too unwieldy to remember; names get called out for people who were just revealed, even though those people should be easily dismissed.

In past years I've always had mine identified before the allotted number of guesses elapsed. That's partially because people in the department pretty well figure it's possible I've done just about anything. I always get called out many times before my slip is read, so it's only a matter of time until my slip is the one read and the guess is correct. Also, I generally lack the ability to camouflage slight embarrassment; my face goes flush, and my skin tone is pale enough that it stands out rather obviously. Thus after the fact was read aloud, it became a simple matter of which person would glance at me and see the unconscious response on my cheeks and know to yell out my name.

There is another, more subtle, aspect of the game. It isn't obvious but when it comes to trying to disguise one's fact and avert being guessed, this other aspect is almost as important as selecting a fact that seems very unlike the way one is perceived. This year I took advantage of it.

When my slip of paper was read, I was the first to make a guess, speaking the name of someone whom I'd pre-selected as a feasible target in a loud voice and pointing my finger at them in a playfully stern way. Of course that person denied the fact being about her, and then I glanced around the room while feigning searching for another candidate. Four other people made guesses, of various others around the room, and all of which were wrong. For the first time in several years of playing the game, I didn't get guessed.

I finally played the game.

It's hardly an impressive bit of psychology to grasp that by making a guess I was making myself seem to be off-limits as the originator of the fact but it was effective. The reality was that the entire game up to that point, the only times I'd been guessed were during rounds where I didn't make a guess myself. This merely continued to prove true when it really was mine.

I will admit that I did get a little too excited when I essentially got away with my ploy, blurting out "Suckers!" when I got a point for my deception.

Hey, if you're going to play you should play to win. Of course, I was too busy concocting my scheme that I wasn't able to guess the originators of any other facts correctly, so that point was the only point I got the entire game, and I didn't come close to winning the overall game.

You can't win 'em all, but for one moment I did (kind of). Which is better than I usually do.

(Pathetic, party of one: Your table is ready.)


I will reveal what my "fact" was upon request.

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