For What It’s Worth

Say what?

What’s your pet peeve comment that every time you hear it you have to choke back a clever, or sarcastic, or not-so-nice retort? Admit it, you have at least one, probably several. I know I do.

Here’s one of mine: Placing my order at a restaurant and having the server cheerful proclaim, “Enjoy your meal. If you need anything, my name’s Adam.” To which I respond by smiling (most of the time) while stifling the urge to say, “And if I don’t need anything, is your name still Adam?”

You get the picture. No doubt, you have some similar pet peeves of your own.

I’m not positive, but I think my wife’s No. 1 such situation is when she’s cooking and I lift the lid on the pot, stare at the contents, and cheerfully ask, “What are cooking?” Strange, but I don’t recall ever getting a verbal response, though there have been some stares that said far more than words ever could have.

I’m old enough to remember when businesses had people answering the phone, not a recorded electronic voice offering you a series of options with a number to punch for each option. Usually, by the time I get through punching numbers (it’s never just one number you punch) and finally get a live human being on the line, I’m ready to punch the person.

I digress. Back to remembering when a human being answered the phone. Too often, when I said hello to the person and asked to speak to a specific individual, the response would be, “May I say who’s calling?” That was an opening I always wanted to seize, but never did. I must confess my sin, however. I never failed to have a smart-aleck remark enter my mind, though I always stifled it. The result was an untold number of stifled answers. Why not? That’s such a beautiful invitation to any number of responses. Let’s consider a few.

On a bad day—Human Voice (HV): May I say who’s calling? Stifled Response (SR): No.

On an almost-as-bad day—HV: May I say who’s calling? SR: You just said it.

On a rattle-someone’s-chain day—HV: May I say who’s calling? SR: Yes.

Let’s-be-frustrating day—HV: May I say who’s calling? SR: Mickey Mouse.

You’re kidding day—HV: May I say who’s calling? SR: It’s supposed to be a surprise, but it’s Publishers Clearinghouse.

Someone’s mad day—HV: May I say who’s calling? SR: Why? Am I blacklisted?

There might not be an end to the list of possibilities on this one. No doubt, you have some stifled responses of your own to add to the list.

Married guys, you can identify with this situation. It’s winter (or anytime actually) and your wife decides to warm her cold feet by planting them against your backside. When she does, it sends a shock through your system like surge of electricity, your body goes stiff and every hair on it stands at attention. She asks sweetly, “Honey, are my feet too cold?”

Now, guys, you and I both know there is a right way and a wrong way to answer that question, assuming you can catch your breath enough to answer. You may know the right answer but the chances of it sounding right if you could just get the words out are not good. Instead, a variety of stifled responses scurry through you mind.

Among them might be one or more from this list of possibilities: …Well, it might be best to skip the list.

In his epistle, James warns us about bridling our tongue. So, when I think of all the possible opportunities for great comebacks to questions or comments that just beg for quick retorts and all those times I stifled responses, I almost get a feeling of self-righteousness.

That’s not self-righteous, that’s pride, you say.

Stifle that response.

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2 Responses to For What It’s Worth

  1. Hubert Edgar says:

    Now see, I wouldn’t react negatively to “May I….” Mine’s “Can I…” How am I supposed to know if they can or not? And, St. James is so right!

  2. Chris Turner says:

    I would say something about the way you’ve gone from preachin’ to meddlin’…but I won’t. 🙂

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