Zen and the Art of Reception Crashing

(Originally ran on October 13th, 2003)

If I am ever to achieve my dream of total world domination, I must refine myself into a finely tuned machine of a man. To do that, I need to work out a few kinks. A few odd habits, if you will.

I realize that everyone has their particular quirks, and self-help types will say "hey, that’s OK, those quirks are what make you YOU." But these people also want me to like tofu and Taebo. The bottom line is that I’ve got a few habits I’d be better off without.

The first one turns up whenever I go to a pool hall or any business with a jukebox. I don’t know if it’s pool cue fumes, the bright colors of the box, or depression from only being able to buy Boo Berry cereal at Halloween, but inevitably, just before wrapping up a game of pool, I’ll stride over to the jukebox, find the most irritating song on the play list, and program it to play at least six times in a row. Then I leave. My usual standard is "Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel, but I’ve also used "Leaving On a Jet Plane," "Leader of the Pack," and "Amish Paradise."

Some of my habits aren’t so socially irresponsible. Before I started shaving my head I used to mold my hair into a Mohawk every time I took a shower. As a missionary in Chicago, I wore the same tie 216 days in a row. My whole family has a compulsive habit of locking doors whenever leaving the house, even if someone else is still there.

But one of my more extreme habits is really more of a tradition. Every time I go to a wedding reception, I instinctively sign the name "Mike Dubek" on the guest book. Mike Dubek is the obligatory name some of my old work buddies used to sign office birthday cards, since most of the signatures were coming from people we didn’t even know anyway. What’s one more mystery name?

I’ve now brought the tradition to the wedding reception, with the rationale that anyone from the bride’s family will assume that Mike is the groom’s guest, and vice versa. But I wonder if I should elaborate on the idea.

So far I’ve only done this at receptions I have been invited to. But why not drop by a reception for kids I don’t know? That might be more fun. It might even be a cheap date. But there are some things to keep in mind if you want to successfully infiltrate a standard wedding reception.

(TRANSLATION FOR THE HUMOR-CHALLENGED: JOSH IS NOT ADVOCATING DISHONESTY. THE FOLLOWING IS JUST WISHFUL SPECULATION FROM A WEDDING RECEPTION BURN-OUT.)

(but if you do try this, I'd love to hear about it…)

Signing the guest book and eating eclairs are fairly easy tasks, but once you hit the actual reception line and start shaking hands, you need to be on your toes. Make sure to look ahead to see who's family you are coming to first, and introduce yourself as a friend of the other. This should cover all of the parents and most of the groomsmen and bridesmaids, but remember to use your real name when getting a bridesmaid's phone number.

When you get to the happy couple, it's crunch time. Your best bet locally is to claim to be an old friend from the groom's mission. Your typical returned missionary only remembers about 5% of the people he served with anyway. Then all you have to do is hold character as you execute the obligatory "awkward hug" formality. But if this is not an LDS reception, you'll have to try the "we were in English 2010 together" line. Just make sure they didn't transfer to USU from out of state. (All of this info can be gleaned from the announcement in the local paper.)

You should bring gifts, too. Once I gave a friend of mine some Darth Maul boxer shorts as a wedding gift. It was kind of an inside joke, but I’m sure there are many young couples out there that would benefit from a token pair of Star Wars boxer shorts. What newlywed, ready to face a brave new world, wouldn’t be overcome with joy upon opening up a pair of silk boxers emblazoned with the moniker "You’re my number one guy" from a guest they didn't invite? America! What a country!

I guess my political aspirations are still a ways off.

Maybe I should just try acting.