VanCore president Kate has a drill she does with her ESL students to keep their language skills sharp. It goes like this:
“Talk to me about bananas.”
Off the student will go, on the subject of bananas, but fifteen or twenty seconds in, just as they’re gaining momentum, Kate will cut in and divert them to a new subject, based on a word they just casually uttered.
“Never mind about bananas,” she’ll say, “tell me about Peru.” And off they go in that new direction.
It’s a game perfectly suited for Table Topics and this week she deployed it.
Kate: “Okay, Connie, tell us about opera.”
Connie: “Maybe the highest expression of the human spirit, right? The drama, the melodrama, these perfectly honed voices. I heard a soprano sing a Norma that was right on the money…”
Kate: “Never mind about opera. Tell us about money.”
Connie: “Some among us are delinquent in our membership dues. Come on, people: if we don’t get the money, this club is toast.”
Kate: “Never mind about money. Tell us about toast.”
Bonus points if you can do this without dropping a stitch. And again and again, this week’s members did it.
Kate: “Talk to us about presidents.”
Nicky: “So many different varieties, from all sides of the political spectrum. Of course Kate has given me that topic because I am your incoming president. You should know, I plan to rule with an iron hand.” [Laughter.] “If anyone doesn’t play ball I’ll be booting them out the door.”
Kate: “Never mind about presidents. Tell me about doors.”
Nicky: “An underappreciated part of any home or office. The door is like a face: it announces the character behind it.”
Doing Table Topics this way is like high-altitude training. If you can survive it, it’s hard to imagine any social situation you couldn’t ace.