Social Problem Solving • 19 August 2008 • The SnowBlog

Social Problem Solving

Problem solving, when the problems arent too grievous or pressing, can be fun. Provided youve got a metaphorical easy-chair to recline in and a figurative pipe to puff upon, then thinking up neat solutions to whatever pickles you encounter in daily life can be every bit as rewarding as tackling crosswords, blurting out the answers to University Challenge questions or dreaming up revenge fantasies. Unfortunately, when the problem has a social dimension, theres a temptation to come up with solutions that are a little bit mischievous. To give the example thats currently flickering at the periphery of my attention, Im thinking of dropping in to a local bookshop to chat to the owners. I have met them on many occasions and have spoken to them at length. Em and I have taken them in free books, Ive sought their advice on [deleted]* and even discussed collaborating on a book with them. In total perhaps weve talked with them for two and a half hours in our various meetings, and on each occasion the first few minutes are taken up with reminding them who on earth I am. To the best of their knowledge, each meeting is the first. Even hinting that this is how the last half dozen conversations have begun hasnt helped, and I confess this is where the mischievous part of my brain comes into play. What is needed, it insists, is an encounter thats properly memorable: something so outrageous or eccentric that the next time we bump into each other therell be no need for a seventh introduction; theyll remember perfectly well who I am. Is this the impulse that leads people to wear colourful bow-ties, brightly coloured braces or florid and clashing waistcoats? Those tactics might work, but Id like to try something a little more dramatic. Maybe wearing a magicians cape and concluding conversations by disappearing in a puff of stage smoke? Or would it be in poor taste to pretend to have Tourettes? And would the excuse Im on my way to a fun run fail to fully assuage their curiosity if whenever we met I was dressed as a giant fox? In reality Ill probably just continue to repeatedly introduce myself, but that doesnt stop me having fun inventing gaudily theatrical ways of being a little less forgettable. * Was a bit too obvious who I was talking about so I've zapped the clue to avoid embarrassment.


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