Birds Are Nice

Occasionally a group conversation becomes confrontational, or veers into an area that certain participants know is going to be distressing. A friend tells me that at a job she worked in several years ago somebody came up with a cute code-phrase that signaled, "It's time to change the subject—now!" That almost meaningless phrase was: Birds are nice. Whenever someone said it, a listener who knew the rule was obligated to help move the discussion toward a safer topic.

Learning of "Birds are nice" reminded me of another convention that evolved in a sometimes-noisy group where I worked. When a phone rang, before answering it the person reaching for the handset would shout Ice cream! The rest of the room would quiet down.

^z - 2009-09-18