By Ken DeLaat
Years ago when freelancing for our fine local weekly I was introduced to someone who said ‘My wife said I should know who you are because you’re in the paper but to tell you the truth I don’t read your paper.”
In a rather lame attempt to be clever my unfiltered response was ‘Well, I assumed that, but wondered perhaps if anyone ever read it to you?”
Yeah, we never got to be close.
During my time toiling for a human service agency a few of us were yukking it up at lunchtime over one thing or another when the head honcho appeared in the doorway with a rather serious look stating they were there for “Administrative Presence”.
“We’re getting presents?” I blurted with enhanced enthusiasm, a response that brought rolls of laughter to all in the room….
Well, all but one.
At a very critical meeting involving a merger between entities and filled with the subsequent tension associated with such matters the urgency of the speaker seemed to create a collective perturbation among my colleagues. There was that distinct air of anxiety floating about the room thus when she asked if there were any questions my hand rose as if somehow attached to that pesky seemingly automatic reaction mechanism by telekinesis.
“Over there,” she said pointing toward me.”Question?”
“Yes, I was wondering why you see so many shoes along the side of the road?”
My later explanation to my boss at the time referenced that she hadn’t been specific as to the nature or subject manner of the questions she had agreed to entertain but it fell on rather deaf ears.
So you see there’s been a distinct tendency toward pretty much coming across as a smartass regardless of the situation or setting it seems. While there are some immediate rewards to such reactions (albeit exclusively internal ones) they tend to create a bit of distance from others and rarely endear one to authority figures, new acquaintances, a few family members and the other folks one encounters on a more or less daily basis.
Then there’s the whole reputation thing that follows.
Of course these occurred in my younger days (which technically could be last week I suppose but actually references days of more hair on the head , and less around the ears) when possession of any level of impulse control was pretty nebulous.
Nowadays as an older guy I find himself making periodic attempts to be a smidge more mature if not discernibly wiser. Screamingly unsuccessful attempts for the most part but attempts nonetheless. One such effort has been to temper those spontaneous and ultimately untrustworthy reactions.
When confronted with certain sticky situations or what seem to be seriously insipid statements from others or during high angst moments in time my mind races to any number of decidedly inappropriate responses ranging from snarky cynicism to perhaps a pubescent riposte or two.
Don’t get me wrong, these can be fun in certain settings. For instance a noteworthy hunting camp I have attended (where no one brings anything to hunt with, much less actually engages in the sport) is an ideal venue since there exists no trace of social decorum whatsoever. In this venue slanderous disparagement is not merely welcomed but heartily embraced and returned with alarming rapidity.
However, within the confines of the usual interactions of the day such commentary can fall a tad short of being well received.
Thus far the most efficient way found to tether the tongue has been to commit to saying little of consequence, expressing few opinions and becoming more of an audience than a participant.
To say this has been difficult is akin to saying that passing a kidney stone can be a bit dicey. Never one to embrace change, the action of managing and mentoring a truly fallible filter has not come easy.
And these days with any number of situations begging for a shred of sarcasm presenting themselves the barriers can seem insurmountable.
For the most part there have been limited inroads. I can reply to questionable queries without spewing sardonic responses for the most part and while perhaps a bit too agreeable with the views of others I find doing so contains the spontaneous and ill considered thoughts wanting badly to be given voice.
Overall a good deal of progress if not perfection.
Then the other day...
A minor relapse.
I had gotten out of my car in a parking lot with far too many items in hand. One, of course, flew out and not knowing whether it was a vital one or destined for the trash can I stuffed the others back in the car and hunted it down. It was a windy day and it blew about finally coming to rest dead center under a Subaru. I got down and inched under the vehicle to get a grab at it.
Being considerably less swift at this type of action these days I was still under when a voice with a definite tone of accusatory irritation said firmly “Why are you under my car?!”
Caught off guard and jarred from my commitment to think before speaking…..
“I’m not sure, Ma’am, but everyone has to be somewhere, don’t they?”
Yeah, she didn’t laugh either.
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