Firing up dull conversations

By Neal Boortz

Over a 33-year talk-radio career, you start to pick up on where the conversational hot buttons are. Hey, talk-show hosts have slow days like everyone else. It’s not every day, after all, that you find the president of the United States being entertained by an intern in the West Wing while his wife and daughter are upstairs getting ready for church. So, when the slow date hits and the flow of news becomes virtually stagnant, you go to your relievers in the hot-topic bullpen.

This can happen to you, too! You’re trying to make that good first impression and suddenly you face your own conversational mind-freeze. I feel your pain. I’m here to help with some of my sure-fire conversation generators. Not ordinary, dull dinner-table conversation, but intense, loud, emotional barroom stuff. Remember, though. Don’t try to start a lively conversation with any of these nifty little catch phrases unless you truly believe what you are saying.

Number one on the list is … smoking. There are so many ways to get people wound up on this topic. For starters, you can state your opinion that smoking is an act of self-hatred. The people most likely to disagree with you here are, naturally, smokers. As the denials start flowing, ask your friends how, with today’s wealth of knowledge on the dangers of tobacco, could any person who truly loved themselves try to systematically poison themselves that way?

Wait – there’s more! We haven’t even begun to exhaust the smoking issue.

Try this: Tell your friends that if you ever own a business you are going to make sure that you don’t hire smokers. Tell them that smokers are generally less productive than non-smokers, they take more breaks, they’re out of work with illness more often, and they just generally stink up the office. Sure, there are exceptions here, but the general rule prevails. Why not just play the odds and hire people who don’t smoke?

OK, if that doesn’t ignite a conversational firestone, here are some more startling facts that I’ve gleaned in my years of bashing smokers. Smokers are more likely to vote Democrat (it goes with that self-hatred thing), and smokers generally score lower on basic intelligence tests than non-smokers. If you think about it, the two go together.

But here’s the clincher – a little verbal grenade I save for the prom season: Tell your friends that if their teenage daughter smokes, when she comes home from the prom tonight, slips off her prom dress and gets into bed, it will be the second time that evening she’s done that. Yes, it’s true. It seems that most parents don’t know what virtually every male in high school does know: The girls who smoke are usually sexually active. The sociologists tell us that the willingness, even eagerness, to engage in one type of risky behavior only makes it easier to broaden your horizons into other risky behaviors – like sex.

For three decades I’ve ranted and raved like a rabid weasel about smoking. The hurt feelings of outraged parents are more than offset by the literally hundreds of letters I’ve received from people who told me they quit just so they wouldn’t have to hide under the bed when I went on my next tirade.

Now, if you really want to turn the conversation into a blue-steam session, try this – no principle that I may put forth on the air is certain to generate as much heat as this one: Simply stated, “Barring mental or physical disaster, each and every one of us are right where we are today because of the combined effect of the decisions we have made during our lives. Nobody did this to us. For bad or for good, we did it to ourselves.”

Americans just can’t seem to accept the idea that actions have consequences – all actions – and that the measure of success or failure, misery or happiness in their lives results from what they do to or for themselves. Any person who recognizes and accepts that reality must then accept the concept of individual responsibility. They have to recognize the absurdity in Richard Gephardt’s “won life’s lottery” nonsense, and the all-too-common reference to “the less fortunate” in the leftist media. It’s not about buying the right quick-pick lottery ticket or “lucking out,” it’s about hard work and making painful decisions. Luck is opportunity met by preparation – and to be prepared or unprepared is a personal choice.

I’ll tell you, my friends … I have the greatest job in the world. I know where the chains are, and I get paid for pulling them for three hours a day. There’s so many cages left to rattle, but we’re out of words. Alas! We didn’t even have time here to get to the fact that poverty is a mental disease.

Maybe later.