Everyone's sitting around talking about the economy, or the gun problem, or the police problem, or LGBT rights, or ISIS, or the poisoned water in Flint, or the Zika virus, or Cam Newton's bad press conference after the Super Bowl, and suddenly you realize that one person hasn't been heard from in awhile.
And the reason she hasn't been heard from is because she's about to be heard from.
She's been leaning back slightly, so nobody can see she is holding three aces and two conversation-killing kings. She's been waiting for just the right moment.
"Of course none of this really matters," she says without really looking up. "The real problem is climate change."
And of course that's right! (How can I be so sure? Because no oil company has offered to pay me to say it's wrong.)
But just because it's right—that doesn't make it polite, or productive, or even honest conversation.
Similarly, it's not fair game for a spouse end an argument over squeezing the toothpaste tube by referring to the time, 10 years ago, when the other spouse was caught in bed with the neighbor lady. You don't put a conversation about a mass shooting in San Bernadino into perspective by saying Hitler killed six million Jews. (And for that matter, you don't congratulate a person on a job promotion by recalling the day you won your Pulitzer Prize.)
Here's how polite I am: When the environmental nag plays the global warming card, I refrain from expressing my feeling that the real problem isn't global warming, it's something I learned in third grade that gave me a nihilist streak from the age of eight: In about five billion years, the sun is going to go out and humanity is going to disappear into the darkness. No matter what the water level at the time.
Five billion years, 100 years—what difference does it make to you and me?
Look: If I cared about the environment, I'd be frustrated too. Most people are so wrapped up in their trivial concerns like providing for their families and hunting and gathering for enjoyment in life that they can't hug the forest for the trees.
But I don't care about the environment. Because we're all going to die anyway, so who cares whether it's by drowning or freezing?
(You see how it feels?)