We sit in silence, waiting for the other to think of something to say.
He thumbs at his cardigan buttons; I tap my fingers on my thigh.
"Is it usually this cold in December?"
The old British classic: weather.
"Yeah, pretty much. We sometimes have snow"
Well, that went well. Seven words in response. Time to blow this conversation wide open.
"Oh, that's interesting. How much snow is normal?"
No way he can give anything less than an in-depth meteorological report in response to that, surely?
"Maybe six inches"
Oh. This is going to be hard.
Conversation topics with your American father in law. Come on, think of something.
You have been able to speak for more than 28 years, why have you suddenly lost the ability to think of words?
"Six inches, huh. We never really get snow"
"Oh, I guess it just rains a lot over there?"
"Yeah, we're pretty famous for our rain."
"Yeah, rain and football."
"Oh you like football? There's a game coming on if you want to watch?"
"Sure, sounds good"
Ah, football. The go-to topic when it gets tough.
Time to impress him with your knowledge of the sport. Drop some interesting statistics.
Maybe point out the players who you think will do well for England at the World Cup.
Maybe I'll talk about Megan Rapinoe and we'll bridge into politics...
"Eagles against the Giants. Should be a good game"
Eagles against the...?
The TV flashes on, large men clad in helmets and shoulder pads fill the screen.
What on Earth are we watching? This isn't football.
Oh no. Oh no, no, no. There's been a horrible miscommunication.
"Yeah, should be a good game... I think the Eagles will win"
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?
YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT AMERICAN FOOTBALL!
TELL HIM YOU THOUGHT HE MEANT SOCCER. YOU'LL LAUGH ABOUT IT. PROBABLY.
"They might, but the Giants have a pretty good defence this year"
YOU LITERALLY CANNOT ARGUE WITH THAT.
BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THE FIRST INKLING OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THIS SPORT.
"Maybe, but I think the Eagles offence is strong"
STOP IT, YOU FOOL. THIS CANNOT LEAD TO ANYTHING GOOD.
On the screen a man in green throws the ball towards another man in green.
The other man in green doesn't catch the ball.
A man in blue jumped in front of him and caught it instead.
"So much for that strong offence"
Is he joking? He sounded like he was joking.
Was that not a good football thing by the men in green?
"Ha, there's still time"
That's it, deflect and hope for the best. More throwing on the screen.
Some men run, some fall over. The crowd cheers. He groans.
"You sure about the Giants defence?"
WHY ARE YOU THROWING BANTER BACK AT HIM??
YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT JUST HAPPENED ON THE SCREEN.
"Yeah they're solid. Who do you like for the NFC West?"
Who do you like for the NFC West?
You don't know what that is so how the hell are you meant to answer?
You're too deep in now, try to think about it logically.
"Good question, there's a couple of teams I like"
Quit stalling. West. West Coast? California, Oregon, Washington.
Your rudimentary knowledge of American geography is helping here champ.
Just pick a city. The teams come from cities, right?
LA? Too obvious. Seattle? Not obvious enough. San Francisco? They must have a team.
"I think San Francisco could go all the way"
All the way? All the way to what? Shut up now, stop talking for crying out loud.
"I think you're right, they look like they're in good form"
You got lucky, do not risk it again. Leave it there, try and steer the conversation elsewhere.
Back to weather maybe.
Or cats, everyone likes cats.
"How about the Stanley Cup?"
See, this is what you get for trying to blag it. The heck is the Stanley Cup?
"I don't know. There's a lot of teams"
Are there? There might be only two teams for all you know, you complete moron.
Bathroom. Pretend to pee. Google it.
"I'll be right back"
"Sure. Can you grab me a soda from the fridge?"
Well done, you've graduated from awkward house guest to servant.
That's a step in the right direction.
Bathroom. Phone out. Google Stanley Cup.
DIFFERENT SPORT ENTIRELY. Thank God you didn't say the Eagles would win it.
Most wins, Montreal Canadiens. Most recent win, St Louis Blues.
This information doesn't help you in any way. Gambling odds, that'll help.
Try gambling app. Doesn't work, you're in America and it's not allowed here. BALLS.
You got lucky with San Francisco before, just pick another random team.
Scroll through list of team names. Penguins, that's the funniest name. Go with that.
Stroll back casually, not forgetting the soda from the fridge for your
master father in law.
"No problem...I like the penguins for the Stanley Cup"
"Penguins huh? Interesting"
Interesting? Is that good or bad.
Why didn't you just pick the Montreal Canadiens, they've won it the most.
"I think they've got a really good chance too"
Nailed it. Two from two. Maybe you do know all about American sport after all.
Back to the screen. Some more throwing, this time the ball is caught. Everyone cheers.
That was non-committal enough. You just need to keep this going for another 15 minutes.
How long does it take to get a few things from the store? Your wife should be back soon.
Something's happening on the screen. A man in black and white has run on the field.
He's throwing a yellow dish cloth on the floor. Maybe it's a protest of some kind.
"Oh come on ref, you can't call that!"
"Yeah, that's a terrible call from the ref"
Ah, the mysterious man in black and white is the referee. We don't like referees?
After some standing round and talking the referee is on the screen.
Foul. Illegal forward pass.
Illegal? Sounds serious. Gauge his reaction, decide what to say next.
"Illegal forward pass? He's behind the line of scrimmage!"
He might as well have said he's flurgled his goobastomp. You are none the wiser.
"Yeah, that's a bad call I think"
Unite against the referee, common enemy, group mentality. That'll win him over.
He smiles at you. Maybe there's a promotion from servant in store?
Tolerable acquaintance perhaps?
It's almost half time in the game. Then what? You can't talk tactics.
Mercifully the front door opens. Your wife's back from the store with things for lunch.
Food, the other great conversation starter.
Looking at the TV, she laughs.
"Oh dad, you don't have to watch sports just because we're here.
I know you don't like them.
I don't think Matt even knows what's happening—he watches soccer, not football".
She walks into the kitchen. We look at each other for a second and break into beaming grins.
What a pair of idiots.