Mortimer Brewster: Look I probably should have told you this before but you see… well… insanity runs in my family… It practically gallops. Arsenic and Old Lace

So it’s the most wonderful time of the year again. No, that song isn’t about the college football season windup, or the halfway mark of the NFL season. It’s not about a Jim Beam discount at the state store, which we’re pretty sure is over now – hope you stocked up. It’s not even about the arrival of the Honey Crisp apple crop. Don’t you always forget how good they are? No, it’s the first of the big three in the holiday pantheon: Thanksgiving.

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And even though this isn’t the worst of the three, it does involve relatives in the sense of going over to their houses to visit or, worse, having them come to yours. Relatives are people you are expected to spend time with on the occasion of certain holidays, people you would probably not choose to spend time with were they strangers. Everyone has a few, in fact, that you’d cross the street, even the parkway, to avoid.

Herewith, as a service to you, the home reader, are the Idler’s tips for handling the various categories of relative you are likely to encounter at the dinner table, the parlor, the liquor cabinet or in mortal combat:

Teenagers – You may find them sullen and withdrawn and there’s a reason for this: they’re teenagers. If you get tired of watching them constantly checking their phones and texting their friends, try disconnecting your wifi. This could backfire, however, and instead of leaving they may discover your old stereo system and start asking you questions like, “What’re you supposed to turn on this ‘turntable’ anyway?”  and “Look, they misspelled ‘beetles’ on this big round thing.”  That’s when the wifi can miraculously return and they can get their noses back in their smart phones where they belong. You could also demonstrate the use of the “turntable” by playing the Ray Conniff Christmas album your elderly aunt (see below) gave you in 1985. You can probably stand it longer than they can.

The Contrarian – There’s always this one guy who will respond to your “Happy Thanksgiving!” with, “What’s that supposed to mean?” Your first instinct is to keep feeding him drinks, but often he’ll be a teetotaler, likely part of the reason he’s so miserable. Also, you run the risk of going from dealing with a disagreeable uncle to dealing with an angry drunk. Your best move is to seat him near the teenagers because he’ll probably hate them more than he does you.

The Sister-in-law Who Wants To Know How Much Money You Make – First you want to poor mouth it with lines like, “Oh, we’re getting by, I guess” and  “It’s a tough economy, you know.” But then you can casually spring something like, “Anybody who knows Jack Ma could tell you that Alibaba IPO wasn’t going to fly” or, “I think the smart move is to ride it out with an index fund.”

The Drunk – Once you make sure somebody else has the car keys you just want to park them in the overstuffed couch or a comfy chair. The combination of the alcohol and the tryptophan will K-O them in no time. If they get rowdy introduce them to the contrarian (see above), and if that doesn’t work, join them.

Political Activist College Students – Throw them out. Call the police if you have to.

The Elderly – Nod sympathetically and pretend you’re interested in the interminable story of how they once almost won a new car in a magazine subscription ad campaign but somehow it didn’t work out and “mark my words, that Clearinghouse outfit hasn’t heard the end of this.” The idea is to preserve any slim chance you’ll be mentioned in the will. Don’t be surprised, however, if some of the savvier teenagers (see above) start giving you the same treatment.

Good luck and Happy thanksgiving!

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