The Seven Points of Departure

EVERY time you pay a call, there is a departure to be made. Many other occasions also require departures. In addition to calls, there are many times when people are together and must eventually separate. Who shall make the first move? This is sometimes a hard question, and we shall not attempt to answer it here. Let us beg it by assuming that you are to make the move. Our immediate problem, then, is to determine how to do it.

All of us can call to mind guests who would not (possibly could not) take their leave. We may have lost patience with them. Would it not be fairer, however, to admit that the situation is a difficult one calling for special treatment? Approaching the matter in this frame of mind, I have given it much thought, and I now submit what I believe to be a complete solution. It is a solution, I may add, that has stood the test of actual practice. I shall present it analytically as ‘the seven points of departure.’

One — stand up. Two — hold out your hand. Three — say good-bye. Four — go to the door. Five — open the door. Six — walk out. Seven — walk away. That is all there is to it. It sounds too simple to be true, and that, I admit, is the one weakness of my solution. The neophyte, therefore, must be warned to keep his wits about him, for experience has shown that every stage of this ritual is attended by unsuspected dangers. These will have to be mentioned briefly.

One — stand up. It is not always easy to stand up. As in the case of a plunge into cold water, there is a mental hazard to be overcome. It is easier, of course, to squirm in your seat, to say ‘Er . . . eh,’ to look toward the door, to wish that the rug under your feet were the Wishing Rug — to do anything, in short, but rise. To effect the necessary first move, an act of will is called for. Remember that you wish to leave, and that it is difficult to do so without rising. Not impossible, of course. You could fall in a faint and be carried out. This manœuvre, however, is a delicate one, not to be recommended except in great emergencies. Upon ordinary occasions a departure cannot be successfully engineered without rising. So face the inevitable and stand up. The beginner may hearten himself with the knowledge that rising in company becomes increasingly easy with practice.

Two — hold out your hand. Here again there is a mental hazard. Will it help to put your hands in your pocket? Need you wait for the end of the current anecdote? Should you accompany the offer of your hand with some banality such as ’I must be running along’? No, all this is quite superfluous. Just hold out your hand. Most well-bred persons will understand the signal. But what if your hand is ignored? After all, one should be prepared for everything. Suppose your hostess is blind, distrait, occupied, rude. Does the rule fit such a situation? Of course it does. You will observe that nothing was said about shaking hands. It is true that this usually occurs; so much the better. If not, your hand will soon get heavy — drop it. This completes the gesture, and you are ready to advance to the next point.

Three — say good-bye. Why say goodbye? People have often asked me this question, and 1 shall be frank about it. It is not strictly necessary from the utilitarian point of view. But it will save you from being considered queer. Since I devised my system, many of my acquaintances have tried to detain me. None has succeeded. This has occasioned much wonder among them, and yet I dare say that not one has suspected me of having a system. For this desirable state of affairs I give entire credit to the use of the word ‘ Goodbye.’ I therefore recommend it.

Four — go to the door. If you think it is easy to go to the door, you have never seen a genuine victim of inertia in action. Such a one can spend hours between rising and leaving; he may even sit down again. So do not underestimate the difficulties at this point. Do not forget that in order to get to the door you will have to move your feet. Very well — move them.

Five—open the door. At this point you will get a real thrill of achievement. Like the first streak of daylight which brings hope to the victims trapped in a coal mine, the sight of the door will cheer you with its promise of ultimate escape. Often, of course, someone will take his stand between you and the exit. Go around him. Or, again, someone may reach the door ahead of you, only to possess the knob without turning it. This is not unusual, and you must be prepared to take whatever measures may be required to deal with this situation. Do not hesitate to strike down the offender in cold blood if need be. If the obstructionist is a woman, and you have scruples against hitting a woman, a playful push may do the trick. In a word, choose a method to fit the circumstances, and — open the door.

Six — walk out. The principle that applies here is precisely the same as that which I laid down under rule four. Think of the many groups you have seen leaning against open doors in different stages of exhaustion and boredom. For shame, do not lend yourself to such a scene. If you lose your courage at this point, your hostess will be sure to say sweetly, ‘Do come in and sit down again.’ This is a sure sign, which, like a football signal, means one thing, and one only. It means, ‘Walk out!’

Seven — walk away. And to carry off smoothly this final part of the programme, you must not leave anything behind — nor must your wife. But if you do leave something, let it go forever. What is a mere cigarette case, or diamond necklace? Leave it — leave it! I cannot say too emphatically — and I do so without fear of contradiction — that the most important part of my whole system is to walk away.