“I don’t want to be ugly, but I was there before you.”
Words reveal so much about us, perhaps especially the words we specifically don’t want associated with us.
There is an interesting game I have played with myself - or with others, when I can find an agreeable playmate - inspired by Harry Kemelman’s great short story, “The Nine Mile Walk.” As two men pass by two other men, they overhear one say to another:
“A nine mile walk is no fun, especially in the rain.”
What Kemelman(creator of the great detective, Rabbi David Small) teaches the reader is that there is much you can infer from just a simple sentence such as the above. In this case, they deduced that one of the men had killed a man on a train, and walked nine miles back to town . . . in the rain. I have, of course, reduced a brilliantly written story down to one sentence, so anyone who enjoys good mysteries (even if I did just spoil it for you) should check it out.
The larger point being that words are never just words, something that falls out of the sky and somehow escapes through our lips. We choose them for a reason, and sometimes, as in the quote above, perhaps they may reveal more about us than we care to have exposed.
Dutiful husband that I am, I was accompanying Tracy on a trip to buy some art supplies (ooh, maybe she’d buy me a sugar free chocolate treat!) when we were approaching the registers, as clerks were busy twisting, turning, wishing us all the best of the holiday season and adding to their carpal tunnel strain.
As a young couple moved their cart to one clerk’s register, a voice rang out, “I don’t want to be ugly, but I was there before you!”
A middle-aged woman ran over with her cart, planting herself directly in front of the young people, who were too taken aback to say the obvious thing:
“Well, if you were all that concerned about your place in line, maybe you shouldn’t have taken your cart with you when you wandered off.”
In truth, I sort of felt like making the point myself, but I was ten feet away, and my voice would have been even louder than hers, and we would have sounded like two louts in a bar.
I mean, dude, Black Friday had long come and gone - had the blood lust not left her system yet?
But as we were leaving the store ( sans my hoped for sugar free treat), I remarked to Tracy upon the woman’s choice of the word “ugly” - where most might simply have said :”I don’t want to be rude, but . . .”
Ugly is a word that has no pleasant connotations whatsoever, and yet this was the precise term she used, almost like David Banner warning, “Don’t make me angry, Mister McGee. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Because I think this woman has been accused of being “ugly” before, and is well aware of what happens when she Hulks out, for lack of a better term, leaving all sorts of emotional wreckage in her wake.
Perhaps the young couple - and anyone else in the immediate vicinity - was far luckier than they knew that day, when she was allowed to reclaim a place in line that she had given up in the first place. And in all honesty, the store wasn’t even that crowded at that time of day. What might have she lost if she had done the right thing, and simply moved to another register? Three minutes? It made me wonder how many times in the past has she given in to her compulsion to be “ugly” without warning anyone first?
Still, she got her way, which was the important thing, the woman who didn’t want to be “ugly.”
And she inspired a blog, which is almost as fine a thing as a sugar free chocolate treat, when you think about it in the long run.
Quote of the Day
Doctor Watson: “Holmes, could ghosts actually kill someone?”
Sherlock Holmes: “Not well-bred ghosts, Watson.” - Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)