Playing Possum

Pretending to be asleep was his favorite defense mechanism. In bed, in chairs, on sofas, occasionally standing up; it saved him from participating in all sorts of uncomfortable circumstances.

He'd discovered playing possum as a child, watching his uncle employ the maneuver at almost all family functions. Uncle Ted didn't care much for people or parties. He'd arrive with Aunt June, they'd both make their hellos and handshakes, and almost immediately, Ted nodded off in a chair in corner somewhere. As a result, Ted never had to make toasts, or carve turkeys, or worse, answer questions.

His nephew took copious notes, and mimicked the behavior. He practiced by throwing a temper tantrum, followed immediately by a "nap," which conveniently dispersed any tantrum-related consequences. Soon, playing possum became a signature move. His parents eventually took him for a narcolepsy evaluation, and were mystified by his clean bill of health.

For the rest of his life, he managed to consistently avoid facing any sort of responsibility or decision-making. By his own estimates, fully three-quarters of his waking hours were spent behind closed eyelids. It was the measure of his success in many ways, and his ability to navigate to a high-paying if non-essential position in corporate middle management, where issue avoidance and indecision were highly prized attributes.

Often, though, he'd read his business cards to himself, but instead of "Associate Director, Corporate Initiatives," the words his mind read were, "Half-Adult Man-Child." Thinking such things inevitably just made him drowsy, and he'd fake a nap.

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