We think we've solved the problem with a list of tips that will get your confidence level back up to par, at minimum personal expense. Just remember that moxie can be as important as money when it comes to looking good.
1. Carry a foreign-language newspaper in your briefcase. When sitting at a bar, take out the paper and scan the pages with a serious expression. It's important to pick a difficult language for the gambit, something other than French, German or Spanish. Those could get you in trouble if some exchange student calls your bluff.
2. Keep an old telephone in your car under the front seat. When driving, hold the receiver up to your ear and act as if you were talking to someone on the other end. if stopped at a busy intersection, roll down your window so pedestrians can hear the conversation. Then, in a loud, demanding voice, say things such as, "Tell Harris we need that building! Tell him to offer 50 million, straight cash, whatever it takes!"
3. Use expensive containers to dispose of household trash. When you visit a store such as Neiman-Marcus (we buy all of our pencils there) pick up a couple of extra shopping bags. Several times a month you should fill one with garbage and place it on the curb with your other household rubbish. Make sure the name of the store is clearly visible from the street.
4. Wear T-shirts commemorating fantastic events of physical endurance. Most towns now have these stores where you can print messages on shirts. Simply order one up with the inscription, "Snow Madness Run, Butte-Great Falls December 1981." When people ask why they've never heard about such a grueling race, say, "Oh, we only ran it once, 12 of us got together and just went for it. Never could get any sane group to sanction it."
5. Mount extra clocks on your office walls. Label each one with the name of an international capital (Lima, Bonn, Canberra) and check them periodically when talking with a client.
6. Keep mysterious items in the glove compartment of your car. Instead of the usual mess of tissues, loose change and old sunglasses, you should have at least two of the following articles: a slide rule, a map of the London subway system, an English-Swahili dictionary, a small jar of litmus paper or a prism. When apassenger discovers the items, shrug and say something like, "Oh, just some things for this project I'm thinking about..." and then close the compartment smartly, to show the conversation is not going any further.
7. Print your own wine labels. This is fairly risky and is a ploy that should only be used when you really want to play hardball. ...Grab a few bottles of your favorite generic vintage from the local Econo-Mart, soak the labels off and paste on your own. Getting them designed shouldn't be difficult. Chances are that you know of a graphic artist who's struggling to the same degree as yourself. For a small fee or a large lasagna, he or she can come up with a private reserve label just for you, from folksy wine cellar to expensive foreign vineyards, to suit any occasion.
How to Win Arguments
I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me. You too can win arguments. Simply follow these rules:
* Drink Liquor.
Suppose you're at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you're drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you'll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large martinis, you'll discover you have STRONG VIEWS about the Peruvian economy. You'll be a WEALTH of information. You'll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.
* Make things up.
Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that YOU are underpaid, and you're damned if you're going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. DON'T say: "I think Peruvians are underpaid." Say: "The average Peruvian's salary in 1981 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 before the mean gross poverty level." NOTE: Always make up exact figures. If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make THAT up, too. Say: "This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon's study for the Buford Commission published May 9, 1982. Didn't you read it?" Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say "You left your soiled underwear in my bath house."
* Use meaningless but weightly-sounding words and phrases.
Memorize this list:
You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations such as "Q.E.D.," "e.g.," and "i.e." These are all short for "I speak Latin, and you do not." Here's how to use these words and phrases. Suppose you want to say: "Peruvians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don't have enough money." You never win arguments talking like that. But you WILL win if you say: "Let me put it this way. In terms of appetizers vis-a-vis Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. Q.E.D." Only a fool would challenge that statement.
* Use snappy and irrelevant comebacks.
You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevent phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid points. The best are:
This last one is especially valuable. Nobody, other than mathematicians, has the vaguest idea what "parameters" means.
Here's how to use your comebacks:
You say As Abraham Lincoln said in 1873...
Your opponents says Lincoln died in 1865.
You say Your begging the question.
You say Liberians, like most Asians...
Your opponents says Liberia is in Africa.
You say You're being defensive.
* Compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler.
This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: "That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say" or "You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler."
So that's it: you now know how to out-argue anybody. Do not try to pull any of this on people who carry weapons.
(Contributed by Heather Sheets, added 5/27/99)