Posted on March 9, 2014
Today’s question comes to us from a party who wishes to remain anonymous. They, a couple we know, are planning to move to another province, and wish to know how to respond to derisive questions of the form, “Why would anyone want to move there”? Of course, to preserve anonymity, we can’t name the destination, but let’s just say that it’s a small town in Manitoba, and the couple live in one of the large cities in Alberta, and it’s not Calgary.
There are three approaches one can take in addressing an implied insult of this nature. And if I spent two more minutes thinking about it, I could come up with even more, but ‘four approaches’ is just not done in this kind of expository writing. It must be three, or else jump to seven, and that would make this a book, not a blog post.
The first approach is the ‘witty comeback’ also known as ‘disarming the opponent’. In this approach, you run along with the force of the blow, and answer along these lines: “We’re moving because the mosquitoes are all dying off here”. Or, “the floods in this town are nothing”. Such comments are disarming, because they literally disarm the interlocutor. They can’t very well come back with ‘Oh, haven’t you heard? Next year’s mosquito crop will be the biggest ever, and you’re going to miss the whole thing”. But as clever and funny and let’s be honest, lame, as such sport may be, there are cases where disarming your opponent is not enough.
So, to really jam in the foil, you need to escalate to the “leave ’em quaking” approach. You know, “we’re leaving this place because the killings are getting out of hand. That case on [insert street name of adversary’s home] was the last straw”. This approach does require a lot more work, and it will help to pre-imagine some kind of sordid event, to answer the questions that will surely follow. But with this, you’ve truly turned the tables.
And you would think that you couldn’t do any better than this approach, but you would be wrong. I’ve saved the best for last, and this is the ‘mock horror’ or ‘last straw’ approach, which can be utterly devastating, so be careful with this one. So what you say is, “why, what’s wrong with <insert name of Manitoba town here>?” And they’ll say, “Oh, you know”, and mention perhaps the mosquitoes, the devastating winters, the boring plains, or make odious comparisons between Burton Cummings and Elvis from his Vegas days. To which you answer, “I didn’t know that. Perhaps this is all wrong”. Pause, wait for reply. “Okay, that’s it we’re not going”. Lots of writhing and tears. This one will only work if you’re an effective thespian, but can be eminently satisfying.
Finally, I will leave you with a practice exercise to try so that you will be prepared when a serious situation does arise. You might tell someone you like Nickelback, and when they say, “Well, there’s no accounting for taste” with the requisite sneer, think about how you might respond using each of the three techniques. I know this all seems like a lot of work, but with a little practice, one-upping the snooty can become second nature.