In honour of that heartwarmingly unofficial holiday, National Delurking Month, I have decided to reveal my secret superpower: an amazing ability to stop conversations wherever I go.

I first discovered my secret superpower at the tender age of 18. I had an office job at a engineering consulting firm, and my job was to copy and bind reports. Most of the time, I was in the copy room, where many people throughout the day would stop in, make copies, chat to one another and sometimes me, and leave. (I was hardly Rob Schneider, if that’s what you’re thinking.) One day, the sales manager was in the copy room chatting to my supervisor about a trip he was taking to Japan. I had been to Japan on an exchange the previous summer and loved it, so I piped up with a comment like, “Japan is great. You’ll love Tokyo.” The sales guy looked at me, fell silent, and left the room. Kachunka chunka went the copier. That’s when I knew.

I’ve tried to chalk up this incident to being sort of a greenhorn, to not having learned the fine points of office small talk yet (see: Whisper Hello). But there seems to be more to it than that. I can stop group email conversations in their tracks with a mere click of the “Reply All” button. I can join a group conversation at a party, and without saying very much at all, find myself sitting alone 5 minutes later. At that point, if I’m lucky, some wag will wander over and ask “Why are you sitting here by yourself?” I’m tempted to answer something random like “Purple Monkey Dishwasher!” to hide the pain of having the secret superpower to stop all talking.

The very worst permutation of my superpower is the ability to part the conversation like Moses parting the Red Sea. In this case, I join a group conversation and soon create two conversations, one on either side. At that point, I cloak the shame by trying to look like a part of one of them. Nodding the head, making agreeable noises. Hmmm. If I gets really bored with that act, I can always make a comment like “Yeah line dancing is hard,” to stop the conversation altogether, or at least drive my unwitting victims off to the buffet table.

Like any superpower worth having, mine is sometimes put to the test. It sometimes fails against those who are absolutely determined to tell you their life story. My superpower appears to have little effect on those with the power of uninterrupted speech; I can nod and grunt and ask “How about that?’ all I want without stopping the conversation. Depending on the power I’m up against, saying something random or even offensive, might just pause them.

In the spirit of delurking, I challenge all comers to overcome my mighty superpower. Your comments are proof of my defeat.

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