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Most of my friends know that one of my hobbies is wine.   Wine is supposed to be a fun thing, and while I try to not take it too seriously because it IS a hobby, people do get anxious about how to choose it.  And, as doctors and lawyers know that there is a bit of a knowledge-gap or mystique about doctoring or lawyering, doctors and lawyers (and wine-snots) get QUESTIONS.

Sidebar:  Electrical engineers DO NOT get questions – not about electrical engineering, anyway.  I’ve been trying for thirty-plus years to explain my work to people who ask me politely what it is exactly that I do (without causing them to be bored or confused), and have had only limited success.  Most other engineers don’t even understand.  My college roommate for three full years was an honors mechanical engineer, and only barely got it.  I consider myself successful at the task when I can keep my answer to less than twenty seconds and DO NOT hear their eyeballs snap upward into the tops of their heads or see the look in their retinas of shined-deer caught in someone’s headlights. 

Whatever.  It is a good living, nonetheless.  I’m sure that much of that lack of understanding about it is because of its lack of visibility; we’re talking about something mostly imperceptible versus much-more-salient issues such as something in your elbow that aches, or what to do about probate … or what kind of wine to have with Thai food.  (Ah.  My segue just arrived.)

It’s fun to be asked about a subject you know something about.  It’s something else – not something bad, just something else – when there is one situation or two where it becomes de rigueur.

It has happened enough times that you can see it coming from a mile away.  You are at dinner for four or six or ten people at a restaurant, and the waiter or wine steward arrives with that long piece of paper printed on both sides, or the leather-bound book … and three or five or nine pairs of eyes TRAIN ON YOU.  You have no options.  You are the Chosen One.  They are off the hook, and even the server knows it; he’s not stupid – he can see at whom they are all looking.  It is a fait accompli.  YOU will select for the table.

If you see it coming, it is not usually burdensome, and after a few times it actually becomes funny when it happens.  The great advantage is that people in social situations like this are generally agreeable with letting someone else choose; if they are not, they will speak up, and most adults understand that their silence comes at the cost of experiencing something new and/or not having to divulge that ThreeBuckChuck is their one and only fave.  But because you do have a conscience, there is always that little voice that wonders privately to you whether you have chosen well, or whether you have miscalculated … or even whether you need to GET A LIFE because it is, after all, just grape-juice.

The other side of this coin is the one that comes visible when you are not alone at the table with your precious corner on the knowledge that makes other people slightly anxious about not-having.  In the drop of a napkin, two wine-snots in close proximity will almost instantly get along with one another, famously, and will launch enthusiastically into discussion of favorites or varietals or vintages or whatever.  Multiple conversations will ensue, anxiety will vanish, all will be right in the universe, and the two or four or eight other people at the table will sit there and have confirmed for them that there are some things that are worth knowing … and many that are not.  Selah.

Fortunately, the whole evening does not need to revolve solely around the discussion of your hobby.  Besides:  your knees have gotten stiff from sitting for all that time, and your dinner companion two chairs away is an orthopedist – right?