Ketchup or Mustard?
Until COVID I was traveling extensively for business and pleasure, both domestically and internationally. Hence, being a considerable wine consumer, and traveling most often by myself, I would be frequenting bars across the globe on a regular basis. As is to be expected, I would often be seating next to an individual that was as well on his/her own. My general nature is to converse with all types. I was unable to talk sports given that I have little knowledge of sports team, and even less of their players and record. I am really not interested in asking men the typical questions:, e.g., business or pleasure?, come here frequently?, how many kids?, etc. As to women, there was even less selection to chose from without appearing to be attempting to pick them up. What I did learn over the years, as well as being in sales of my consulting services, was that people are rarely given the opportunity to talk about themselves in more serious ways. That is quite general, I agree, but I provide some examples below once I address what I discovered to be an excellent Ice-Breaker to engage the other individual in a comfortable, if not pure fun, fashion.
Looking back, what I am about to explain seemed to be more successful in having an enjoyable conversation with women than it was with men. Anyhow, as President Biden would say, 'Here's the deal.' Once seated, and after a good portion of my first glass of wine, I would turn to the individual to introduce my self. If the individual responded in a friendly way as to her/his first name, then I would say of course: "Nice to meet you.", and would return to my wine. Shortly thereafter, I would turn to say "Interestingly, I have three ways, silly granted, to place people that I meet." Again, I would return to my drink expecting the following from the individual: "Really, what are those ways?"
I would then respond: "Over so many conversations at bars as this one, I have found people are 1. either cat or dog lovers, 2. ketchup or mustard, and 3. positive or negative." Again back to the wine. INEVITABLY, the individual (again, more likely a woman than a man) will say something like: "Really, how do you see me?" The (harmless) game is ON. I always start with 'positive' in that most people think of themselves as such. Next, if a woman I would say 'Cat', or 'Dog' if a man. This statisically is the safe bet. Lastly, I go with 'Ketchup' in that it is more universal in the U.S. In France I go with 'Dijon mustard' specifically. My response is TOTALLY superficial as to any 'pure insight' into the individual, but the meaningful conversation begins from there with perhaps a few nuances such as Heinz ketchup is the best. If the individual states no difference in any of the selections, then they are praised. MOst often, I am asked to share my choices: positive, dog, ketchup.
If the above has gone well, and each of us has the other's attention. I will often address other issues that I might percieve in our discussion to that point. For example, I might ask "What is a most serious fear of yours? ... or ... What major challenges are you facing now?" The point here is that the individual, including myself, are never asked such questions by others that have no personal involvement. Hence, one can be open if they so wish. In several cases, when I deemed it appropriate, I would ask: "Are you suicidal?' That question has led to some amazing openness with a few individuals. At which point I will probably order another round for both of us. Rarely, does the conversation so continue from there as to my questioning.
I hope my discussion is not perceived by the reader as manipulative, but rather as engaging another individual to the extent s/he is willing. I make no judgements (normally), but simply accept what the individual has to share with me. I did have one situation where the individual was a racist pig, to say the least, and I broke off the conversation politely. Since I have traveled little in the past 2 years, I have not been confronted with Tr**pers that are just totally f**ked-up. There is no conversation with those ignorant types that I want to explore, and visa versa I'm sure. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men, they 'can't handle the truth'.