How Would You Fend Off a Bear?
by Tim Shaw

One of the things I like to do while traveling is observe the differences between other cultures and American culture. I was in New Zealand recently, and I discerned one interesting difference between Kiwis and Americans. It seems a uniquely vulgar American trait that, upon meeting someone for the first time, we feel compelled to ask him or her, “So, what do you do for a living?” Why do we do that? Kiwis don’t do it. Ever.

zombie%20bear.jpgOne explanation for this might be informed by a trip to the Bark Park. For the uninitiated, a Bark Park is a designated place you can take your dog, ostensibly to play with other dogs. In reality, it more resembles a giant outdoor butt-sniffing and humping canine orgy extravaganza. Bark Parks are rife with “mounting.” “Mounting” is something dogs do to demonstrate their dominance over other dogs. I believe the compulsion that Americans feel within five minutes of meeting someone at a party, to ask, “What do you do for a living?” is a form of verbal “mounting.” Happy Hour at Yard House = Human Bark Park.

What baffles me about this line of questioning is that if you are looking for stimulating conversation, is anything worse than listening to some moron drone on about his job?

You: “Nice to meet you. What do you do for a living?”

Moron: “Well, I’m the Procurements Manager for Inventory Control at the Gas Company, and (guffaw…snort)…interesting story…(chortle…guffaw)…the other day, someone put decaf in the coffee pot with the brown handle and it’s supposed to go in the pot with the orange handle (knee slap…giddy foot stomp…guffaw)…and Marge in accounting gets her coffee (gasp for breath…second knee slap…loud nose snort)…and she’s like, “I hope this is decaf,” but she grabs the pot with the orange handle…THE ORANGE HANDLE! (belly laugh…foot stomp/knee slap/chortle/nose snort combo…fart)…CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!”

You (in your head): “How in holy hell do I extricate myself from this banal dickhammer before I intentionally choke myself on a cocktail weenie?”

Look, unless you are Scarlett Johanssen’s gynecologist, I don’t give a shit what you do for a living.

We should shake this up, America, and start asking questions that will lead to meaningful, exhilarating interaction. I have an idea.

Next time you meet someone new at a party, instead of “what do you do for a living?” try this:

You: “Hey, nice to meet you, Chuck. Say, Chuck, how would you fend off a bear?”

Now, if Chuck has had any experience actually fending off a bear; you are in for an evening of exciting conversation! But don’t stop there. I might go with:

“Hey Chuck, nice to meet you…say, Chuck, what will you do when the zombie army arises to feast on the brains of the living?”

Imagine where that conversation could go. You could compare potential zombie battle strategies and share interesting zombie trivia. Imagine the possibilities:

Chuck: “Wow, Tim, I’m glad you asked. Did you know Martin Luther King’s original speech actually said, ‘I have a dream that one day little black children and white children will join hands together’…and he added but later edited…’to fight the encroaching hordes of zombies as they roam the land to feast on the entrails of the living, not as the black race and the white race, but as the human race!’”

Me: “I didn’t know that. Thanks for that information, Chuck!”

But watch out because this guy, Burt, who’s the douchebag at the party, and nobody knows who invited him, might overhear the conversation. Why is this a problem? Because, like I said, Burt’s a douchebag. In fact, Burt is always a douchebag. I defy you to name a “Burt” who isn’t a complete and utter bag of douche. You can’t do it, can you?

Anyway, Burt is walking around the party weaseling his way into conversations, and he might hear you and chime in, “Did you just say you wrestled a bear?”

bearwrestlecopy.jpgSo, you and Chuck would look at each other and think that maybe Burt understood the spirit of the conversation and you had been a little hasty in your judgment of him and say, “Yeah…Chuck did.”

But Burt, who, as previously mentioned, is a royal douchenozzle, would say, of course, “uh…what do you do for a living?” This would result in a simultaneous cockpunch from Chuck and I, and Burt would cup his throttled, throbbing yambag and scurry off to the kitchen to refill his Ketel One Appletini, because that’s all douches like Burt drink. And after getting ragingly drunk he’d end up slouched on the front porch in a frayed lawn chair with an itchy “Bless This Mess” welcome mat slung over his shoulders and he’d be heaving Sour Apple liqueur down on to his $87.00 plain, white Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt, and people from the party would parade out to the porch to snap cell phone pictures of him and rush back to their laptops to create bogus myspace profiles for Burt, listing his interests as “preschool surveillance”, “jihad” and “interesting animal insemination techniques.” And while Burt is kissing concrete on the porch, his wife is inside the party getting busy with Chuck the Bear Fighter. Burt doesn’t find this out until a couple of weeks after the party and he gets so depressed, he stops taking his Zoloft and spirals downward until he ends up at the San Diego Zoo where he leaps into the black bear exhibit and they don’t find him until three weeks later, cowering in a corner wearing lipstick, a garter and a bloody polar bear pelt because his new boyfriend, Coco the Black Bear, is into white chicks.

See, that sets you up for great conversation at the next party when someone will inevitably ask, “Hey, did you guys hear about Burt getting cornholed by that bear?”

I just think that’s more interesting conversation.

Tim is Scarlett Johansen's gynecologist.

A Dark Matter Archives


As always, ragingly hilarious Tim!


See now, if I had your job, I'd always want to talk about it.


Have you read Max Brooks' "World War Z" or his less-accessible zombie survival guide?

If not, you should. If/when you find someone who's also read them, you can debate the merits of the strategies laid out within.

Sort of a 400-level discussion of what you suggest.


Because I know that no one will ever ask me this because they just aren't as clever as you, but I wanted to answer.

"How would you fend off a bear?"

I'd give him a $20 and directions to the closest gay bar! HA!


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