‘The more the merrier’ not true for introverts

Burt's Eye View

I like people — as long as I don’t have to interact with any.

It’s like walking through the zoo: I’m amused by the exhibits, but as soon as a person escapes his habitat and charges me with a smile and outstretched hand, I run for cover.

It’s not that I can’t carry on a conversation. I’m pretty good at faking ease and comfort for up to three or four minutes at a time. But really, 10 minutes is plenty of time to spend at any get-together. Twenty if there’s food.

Hello, my name is Burton and I’m an introvert. Are we done yet?

According to researchers, we introverts prefer one-on-one conversations to big groups, aren’t easily distracted from our projects and prefer working in quiet spaces.

That sounds about right.

An extroverted friend of mine once said the best way to do yard work is side by side with three other people with rakes and they’d be talking the whole time.

I shuddered. You go to your corner, I’ll go to mine, and let’s shut up and get the thing done.

The research also claims introverts make better listeners.

Well, it may look like I’m listening but I zone out about 30 seconds into extroverted gabfests. I smile and nod, but inside, I cringe and cry. And daydream about teleporters, escape pods and other means of instant exit.

The research shows that extroverts recharge at raucous gatherings. They wipe me out.

Remember how as teens, all we wanted to do was to get out of our boring old houses to go somewhere to do something with 50 or 60 of our closest friends? These days, my main goal in life is to stay home with a go-away sign dangling from the doorknob and an out-of-order message on the answering machine.

If my extroverted friends see me sitting off by myself with a book, they run right over, thinking they’re saving me from great loneliness. Well, I am sad — now. Because they won’t let me finish the chapter.

Text messages and Facebook should be enshrined in the Introverts Hall of Fame. I can relax alone in my comfy corner and carry on long conversations without the annoyance of actually having to, you know, speak with someone.

I hate getting trapped on the phone. I never know how to get off the line. If I find myself stuck on a call that’s been dragging on for a good 45 seconds or longer, I’ll interrupt the person on the other end with something like, “Terry would love to hear all about that,” shove the phone into my wife’s hands, and scramble out the door and drive away before she can pass the phone back.

“It was your mother asking what kind of cake you wanted for your birthday,” Terry says when I come home.

It’s stunts like that that earn me the reputation as “the bad son.” My sister is on the phone to our parents pretty much daily. One of my brothers calls two or three times a week and the other checks in at least weekly.

The last time I dialed their number, Dad hung up on me: “Stupid prank callers. As if Burton would ever pick up a phone…” Click.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I’m not an introvert. Maybe I’m just anti-social.

Or an old grouch. Yeah, probably that one.

I’m OK with that. Especially if that means you kids will stay off my lawn.

— Threaten Mr. Crankypants with a phone call at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.

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