“Oh, you’re in the neighborhood and wanted to drop in. That’s fine. We’ll see you in ten minutes.”
“But I’m just around the corner. I can be there in three.”
“But still, we’ll see you in ten minutes.”
I shout out to my wife and two sons, “Ten minutes, team! We’ve got ten minutes to be impressive!”
We all know our assignments because we’ve rehearsed the plan many times before, and we know exactly how long it takes to make a great impression.
The clock is ticking.
9 minutes 57 seconds: My wife removes emergency cookie dough from the refrigerator and pops it in the oven, ensuring a lovely baking aroma when the guest arrives.
8 minutes 4 seconds: I place our college transcripts with our impressive GPAs in the bathroom medicine cabinet, just in case the guest snoops around.
7 minutes 40 seconds: I turn off the Bee Gees and turn on jazz bassist Charles Mingus’ greatest hits.
6 minutes 50 seconds: Our sons change into the clothing I have carefully selected to display their individuality. My nine-year-old will play a hipster and puts on dark jeans, an argyle sweater vest, black glasses without lenses, and a black-and-white plaid fedora. My seven-year-old puts on a tiger t-shirt, blazer, and a newsboy cap–I call this style The Professor Newsboy (copyright pending). I say my kids “change into”, but I’m not sure you can technically “change” if you weren’t wearing a shirt or pants to start with.
5 minutes 11 seconds: I collect all our copies of the British celebrity rag Hello magazine and replace them with The Economist and Harvard Business Review. We already have copies of impressive books on the coffee table, but I blow off the dust and open John Steinbeck’s very thick East of Eden to the mid-way point and dog ear multiple pages in the first half.
4 minutes 4 seconds: Many of our friends are European and we usually greet each other with the Continental kiss on both cheeks, so my wife and I exchange a quick Continental sniff to assure each other whether the guest will detect any need for a shower. We also remind each other to always start the kiss on your left side, because if the guest goes to his left and you go right, you end up kissing on the lips, which has happened to both of us in our early Continental-kissing years.
3 minutes 11 seconds: I remove the DVDs Love Actually and The Karate Kid off the top of the DVD players, and replace them with Jean Renoir’s French masterpiece The Rules of the Game. If I’m asked about the film, I will use the term “mise-en-scène” in describing the visual style of the film.
2 minutes 4 seconds: The kids turn off their video games. My nine-year-old sits on the couch and reads The Great Gatsby. My seven-year-old sits next to an easel, holds a paintbrush, and pretends to be adding a tree to a landscape painting I bought at a yard sale.
1 minute 40 seconds: My wife and I review a notepad full of witty stories and recent accomplishments to mention. We take turns telling anecdotes about the children while the other partner tries to appear deathly bored to remind us nobody besides us thinks our kids are cute.
0 minute 14 seconds: My wife places a tiny hat on our cat Megatron, a step that must be done last because it only takes her two minutes to get it off.
Ding-dong! Who’s that at the door? Someone who’s about to be impressed.
I swear we can do this all in ten minutes, and when I look around at how efficiently my family works together to appear impressive I always think, isn’t our impressive coordinated effort at appearing impressive just as impressive as actually being impressive?