• Paula Tiberius

How to Act Weird & Influence Unwitting People

Richard and I went to a house party the other night, which we rarely do. It was a birthday party for our friend at his place, a very cool architectural icon of a house. The crowd  was a very hip Los Angeles crowd made up of people with jobs that didn’t exist twenty years ago. There was fried chicken and I ate two pieces. But this isn’t a meat report. I’m writing to tell you about a weird guy and a birthday cake.

You know how at grown up parties people can be very nonchalant about cake? I find that’s especially true with intellectual arty crowds where more than one person is wearing dark framed eyeglasses a la Elvis Costello. They’re painfully polite, until they have one too many and then they’ll just stand by the cake with forks shoveling it in. But it was much too early for that.

It was actually quite early in the party to ‘do’ the cake, what with the fried chicken still going strong, but I’m all for that. I’ve had many birthday parties of my own where the cake gets forgotten completely because whoever was ‘in charge’ of it got too drunk, high or otherwise engaged to bring out the cake at an appropriate time such that the majority of the crowd could enjoy it. In this instance they had the full attention of everyone there, candles were blown, Happy Birthday was sung, and then the cake was placed on the counter in the kitchen.

A few people dug in right away, slicing appropriate wedges with the sharp designer knife supplied, and plunked them onto colorful paper plates. Yummy eating ensued. Then the cake was left alone for a moment, until this small Southeast Asian looking man began to hover nearby. I was standing in the kitchen at the perfect angle to examine his cake-slicing technique, but little did I know there would be so much to report.

He picked up the knife and began to size up a reasonable one and a half-inch thick slice, but he couldn’t seem to commit to the cut. Then suddenly he took a different tactic and moved the knife over to the middle of the semi-circle of cake that remained. It appeared he was going to cut the rest of the cake in half. I thought this was weird. Was he going to eat half the cake? No, I thought. He must be cutting three large pieces for himself and his two companions.

He went for it, cutting the cake in half. He even put a little nod in for good measure. At this point the two ‘companions’ began to drift away. They weren’t his companions at all! Now I really wondered what his plan was. He then proceeded to cut smaller slices from the chunk he had just created, but the slices he was cutting were too small to maintain their integrity, despite the firm white flesh of the confection. The action that followed left a big, sugary mess of pulpy cake, as he continued to ‘slice’ off bits, seemingly for a crowd of children that perhaps had gathered in his mind.

The punchline is that he never took a piece of the cake for himself. After his butchering fiasco, he finally put the knife down, gave a little shrug and took off, circling the party for the next half hour, barely talking to a soul. Was he even invited to this party?

Much later, my friend and I went over and ate some of the cake pulp. Despite my judgments, it was delicious.

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