I just regret that it was at a dinner-dance and not the morgue.
We can all think of people we wish we had never encountered. Ex-partners, schoolyard bullies, dishonest employers, social-club sponges, etc. Of course there are people we regret for the sake of the world; Putin, Trudeau, Mussolini, etc. but they are somewhat removed from our own circle and in most cases we need not take any responsibility for whatever it is that they have done. They are roaches that have not run over our feet.
By the same token, we must be fair – there are undoubtedly people in the world who think of us as unmitigated blisters and regret our acquaintance. We’ll know of some but be surprised to learn of others – it is a sobering moment when you find out that a friend regards you badly. What we do about this discovery depends upon our characters and the time-frame involved…if the revelation comes in the middle of soup while dining at the Bishop’s palace, all you can really do is continue slurping and excuse yourself after the savoury. Or pour the tureen over your enemy. Equally good.
The best time of all is to be had watching two separate individuals who have both confided previously in you that they detest the other…and then see them brought together by circumstance and forced to be civil. If you can arrange the meeting, so much the better. Just be close by as the atmosphere cools and the language stiffens. It is better than a play, though not quite as good as an Auto da Fé.
Is it fair to set these things up? No, of course it isn’t. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, here is how you do it:
a. Determine who hates whom. Only the loudest of mouths will advertise themselves in this way – the others need careful attention and the occasional trick question. Try Donald Trump as a touchstone for this and ask if anyone in the social circle reminds your victim of Trump. Or use Justin Trudeau, if you don’t mind the sort of language this will generate.
You goal is not to find someone who hates everybody, but someone who dislikes someone – in particular. It need not be overweening hatred – distaste will do nicely. Then find out if the object of this negative emotion entertains a reciprocal dislike for the first person. If they do, you have your fighting pair.
b. Bring them together. Social club gathering are good for this, as are barbeques, theatre nights, and sporting events. If you can arrange things well, you will have major ingredients to hand with little obvious work.
The ingredients? A crowd who knows one another and who is drinking alcohol. This gives you an audience and a chemical that relaxes natural caution while fuelling passion.
Find a space that does not allow either party to stay aloof to start with nor to escape readily as things heat up. Like a fission reaction, it must all be contained for a microsecond to build up enough pressure to detonate.
c. Introduce a topic upon which they disagree. It need be no more than the correct way to spike tyres – the main thing is to arrange it so that they are both right in the eyes of themselves, wrong in the eyes of others, and unable to back away from the fight. Politics, religion, and sex are always good for this. If you can get them to fight over nothing that anyone else understands it is even better.
d. Try to calm them down by reminding them that people are watching. This will have the effect of making more people watch. See if you can get people to video it on a mobile phone and to be seen by the combatants doing so….It is encouraging and modern.
Make peace by telling them that they are grown-ups. This will bring out the childishness. If you can go beyond shouting and scuffles to actual hair pulling and scratching, you have a chance for a viral YouTube clip. Your combatants will cherish this in years to come.