Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The One Hour Life Story Game

I never did take advice very well.

See: Don’t talk to strangers.

See also: Don’t lie.

I have a habit of starting a conversation with anyone who will listen. I will talk about any topic under the sun for as long as they will let me ramble. It has gotten me into trouble but made me some good friends as well. It helps pass the time when I’m bored, say during a long cab ride or on a flight. Talking to strangers can give you a good impression about what people believe, what they think and what makes them tick. Conversation with a random person can kill boredom faster than anything, but what began as a way to entertain myself has developed into a much more intricate game I like to play.

I call it the “One Hour Life Story Game.”

Now there are a few simple rules which are critical to the success of the One Hour Life Story Game. First and most importantly of all, it can never be played in the vicinity of someone who knows anything about you, even something as simple as your first name. Second, the other (unknowing) participant of the game must be a total stranger, one much too friendly for their own good. This one is imperative as it is no fun to play with someone who has their headphones on or their eyes buried in the latest issue of Oprah Magazine. Third, and this goes hand in hand with rule two, you must play with someone who is interested in hearing you go on and on about your life and, if possible, will go on and on about theirs as well. Fourth, the game must not last any longer than one hour and one hour only, this part is extremely important. The fifth and final rule of the One Hour Life Story Game is simple, but it is the basis of the game:

Every word that comes out of your mouth must be a lie, right down to your first name.

No exceptions.

This game has passed hundreds of bored hours for me and yet it never fails to amuse. The more and more I think about it, the game is actually quite sick and possibly sadistic, but like I said…it never fails to amuse. There is something completely outrageous and frankly exhilarating about sitting down next to a stranger at an airport bar, putting on a fake Irish accent and telling him my name is Seamus and I’m from Cork City. What’s even more outrageous is the fact that in the roughly seven years I have been playing this game (while following the current rules) I have yet to be called on the carpet by anyone. Except maybe that one time when I suddenly lost my Australian accent when answering my cell phone, but still.

The fun of the game is that it allows you to be anyone you could possibly want for an hour. Again, it is imperative that the game lasts no longer than an hour, as the chances of your opponent finding holes in your story grow by the minute. But for that hour you can be anyone from, “John the chemist from Dublin who works on Viagra,” to, “Mike the up and coming pro skateboarder from LA.”

You can be anyone you want.

I’ve had kids, been married, been divorced, been AWOL, been published, been incarcerated, Irish, half black, English and Australian. I’ve been a doctor, lawyer, preacher, teacher, author, unemployed, diplomat and aristocrat. I’ve been to every continent on earth, spoke numerous languages and have had every degree from Accounting to Zoology. You see sometimes I get bored with my iPod, books and television. I like a challenge and I have a vivid imagination, the One Hour Life Story Game is the best way to take care of both. Sometimes I get bored with myself, so I create someone new to be…if only for an hour.

The game keeps you on your toes like nothing else. It forces you to read body language and listen to the things the other person isn’t saying. You must constantly adapt and change your tune to fit the reaction of your opponent. Back off if you feel they aren’t buying it and if they are buying it hook line and sinker, push it further.

What’s the harm anyway? It’s not like you’re ever going to see them again.

I have been called everything from sick to demented when I tell people I know about the game. It makes them suspicious of me and they question everything I say, constantly looking for a lie to catch me in. In a sense the game serves to keep me honest in real life, for everyone who knows about it stares at me with eagle eyes, looking for holes in the true stories I tell people I care about. It also helps teach me to read people, how they sit, fidget, play with their hair, where their eyes move to, how they place their feet and how they lean, in order to determine what they aren’t saying.

Ok, I know the game is pretty ridiculous but don’t knock it until you try it. Think about this game next time you’re sitting in a cab, at a bus stop, in a bar or on a plane. Ask yourself, “could I pull one over on this sucker, could I make him believe anything I tell him?” Chances are you probably can, but just keep one more thing in mind as you size up the competition:

That guy you’re sitting next to, sizing up, the one who just told you he is a doctor or lawyer, that guy who just went AWOL or got divorced, that guy who just had a baby girl or just signed a record deal, that guy who just got back from Cambodia and has a dodgy accent might just be me sizing you up, seeing how far I can pull the wool over your eyes. Keep in mind that you aren’t the only one who plays this game, lots of people are liars, everyone has an angle and if they play you the right way…they can get you to believe anything.

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