Thursday, April 8, 2010

Queen of the staircase....

I love a snappy comeback.The kind that shuts the other person right up.The kind that compels a person to raise their arms up like the tenth round boxer, vic-fucking-torious and possibly the smartest one in the room for a fleeting moment. An example that I LOVE happened to my father at the gym a few years back. He was shaving at the sink and a man at the end of the dressing counter said " Hey,Chief,easy on the water consumption there...". My father rinsed his razor, and, as he began another pass along his face, said " Who made you scoutmaster?". He got a few snickers and the guy didn't say another word. Now, yes, the water could have been turned off, but no one likes to be admonished,especially with the use of "chief" as the softener.
I am on this subject because I rarely have that kind of comeback.I am usually left feeling pissed and speechless, sometimes ruminating for days. The French have a phrase for it: "L’esprit de l’escalier or esprit d'escalier (staircase wit) is thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late. The phrase can be used to describe a riposte to an insult or any witty remark that comes to mind too late to be useful—after one has left the scene of the encounter. The phenomenon is usually accompanied by a feeling of regret at not having thought of it when it was most needed or suitable".

This morning,I started my ailing station wagon to see if it was driveable.I barely made it home yesterday and wanted to get it to Mike, my mechanic, as soon as possible.I put in the key and turned it on. As the engine warmed, a HUGE cloud of thick gray smoke burped out of the tailpipe,slowly wrapped around the car and hung in the street. I turned the car off and proceeded to remove all important items before I called the tow truck. As I leaned in and gathered the puzzle pieces, dried cereal bar chunks, single socks and melted crayons, a guy rode by on his bicycle. I heard him say " We all have to breathe that" as he passed. I stood up, incredulous at the snotty tone in his voice and said loudly after him " Sorry, but my car is broken!" to which he replied "fix it" without turning around.
 It has already been a tense week. I have been on steroids for a strep infection and am on the second week of Spring Break (aka. at home with the kids for two weeks). I haven't exercised in four days and have eaten Easter Candy for every meal since Sunday. He has no idea who he is fucking with. If I had a rock, or a machette or a driveable car, I might be writing this from jail. I roared back something lame like "THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!!" and stormed inside.My husband tried to talk me down, but I couldn't shake it. That asshole threw me a shit ball, and I was still holding it. It is one of the worst feelings because I know that he is the asshole, yet I still feel terrible. I needed a comeback to make it right, and it didn't come.

I know this feeling well.When I was much younger,my sister and I played raquetball at the Bally's on Sunset.There were two courts, one in full view of the juice bar and cafe area and one that was virtually impossible to see unless you looked in the window. We liked the latter because we were just learning how to play and preferred to keep our ineptness to ourselves. One afternoon, after we had booked the more private court for an hour, we arrived to find two women already on the court.One was blonde and probably thirty and the other was Asian and maybe twenty.We opened the door and very politely mentioned that we had booked this court and that they had the one next door. They made faces like eighth graders and shrugged and rolled their eyes and said " well, the other one is free" and went back to playing. We were flabbergasted. We were raised to be polite to strangers and accomodate other people's needs, often before our own.We wouldn't dream of taking someone's seat,parking space, reservation,wallet or raquetball court ever.We went to the desk.We told the guy there (some seventeen year old pimple faced geek who had this job so he could pick up women just like the girls who took our court) what had happened.He clearly saw this as some scary chick issue and told us we could go on the other court or wait for them to finish. We went to the other court, furiously, and began to play.We knew that they took the court that was private for the same reason that we booked it- because it was private.  We hit the ball back and forth,with a bunch of banal smoothie slurping gym rats watching us, for maybe ten minutes,when the door opens and in prance the two girls from our rightful court next door.
" Excuse me? this is our court??!! We booked this court?? ". They were mocking us, snorting and giggling like a couple of hyenas. I was frozen with total amazement that they not only hijacked our court but chose to come back and hassle us before they left. My sister hit a ball at them and screamed "BITCH!!" as loud as she could. It hit the back window hard and they left, snorting and whinnying as they went. We were silenced. Where the fuck was my snappy comeback? and who acts like that anyway? That experience stayed with us, well, forever, because, again- we weren't in the wrong, but still felt like shit.

 My mother's first question was "were they prettier than you?". Sigh... really? Is that what it was all about?
That angle always reminds me of  some lame 80's movie, where we challenge them to a dance off in the parking lot to show who is the hottest. In my opinion, pretty becomes a matter of taste in situations where women get into altercations. If you like Hot Rod Magazine, then they won in that department. If you are partial to the Great Masters,or Wyeth, well, that would be a win for us. They were little c*nty bitches, and we weren't.But we still went home feeling terrible. And I still don't know what I would say if I saw them today,which reminds me of this joke:

Johnny loves the circus,especially the clowns, and his secret dream is to be a clown in the circus. He is poor and has been all his life. He doesn't mind it much, except for the fact that every year when the circus comes to town, he never gets to see it. The years pass and every year he watches the circus come and go with a tear in his eye. Then one year as the circus is leaving, he snaps. "Fuck it," he says." I'm going to get myself a job so I can see the circus."

The next day he applies for a job at a supermarket stacking shelves. He gets this job and works his heart out. He works every night stacking shelves, earning money. He spends very little, and saves heaps. He is the best worker the supermarket has ever seen. A year passes, and the circus comes to town.
As soon as the gates to the circus open, Johnny races up, first in line to buy a ticket. the excitement overwhelms him. He walks around the circus. He sees the animals, the freak show, buys a hot dog. And then he sees it, what he's been waiting for all these years...The Big Top.
Johnny races into the tent and takes a seat. Pretty soon the tent fills up and the show begins. It's a packed house and the buzz is electric. The dancing horses come out, then the elephants, then everyone's favorite, the clowns. The clowns run around and do their act making everyone laugh. When all this is finished, the head clown picks up a microphone and says "Now we'd like to pick a member of the audience to help with our show."
All the lights go out and a spotlight circles the crowd. and, as luck should have it, it lands on Johnny. Johnny is ecstatic, he can't believe his luck. The head clown comes up to him and says..
"Hey mister, are you the horse's head?"
"No." Johnny replies.
"Are you the horse's ear?"
"No"
"Are you the horse's tail?"
"No"
"Then you must be the horse's ASS!!!!"


And then whole tent erupts into fits of laughter all at Johnny's expense. Everyone is laughing, except for Johnny. He's enraged. He vows then and there that next year, when the circus comes to town, he'll get his revenge on the clown.
As he's walking home, still fuming from the humiliation that the clown caused, Johnny thinks of ways that he can get back at the clown. Death, violence, poisoning....and then it hits him. Johnny will give the clown a taste of his own medicine. Next year, Johnny will blast the clown with the biggest insult ever!
The next morning Johnny flips through the phonebook looking for someone who can help him with his revenge. Then he finds an ad.
"INSULT SCHOOL
Sick of being picked on? Come to our school and soon you'll be verbally attacking people with vigor!"

'This is just what I need!!!" says Johnny. So he rings up the school and enrolls the next day.
Every day Johnny goes to the insult school, studying hard so he can learn the best and most harsh insult so he can get back at the clown. On top of this, he still stacks shelves at the supermarket to get the money for the circus. Day in, day out Johnny works harder and harder.Then his day arrives...
As soon as the circus opens the gates, Johnny barges to the front of the line, pushing people out of his way. No longer is he a kind, considerate man. He's  pissed off and  hell bent on revenge. He give the ticket seller the money, snatches the ticket and storms off.
He takes the same seat he had last year and waits...
The dancing horses come out, Johnny yawns. Then the elephants, Johnny tries to stay awake. And then the act Johnny has waited a year for, the clowns. The clowns run around and do their act making everyone laugh. Johnny wonders why everyone is laughing, it's the same show they did last year. When all this is finished, the head clown picks up a microphone, exactly the same as last year, and says "Now we'd like to pick a member of the audience to help with our show."
All the lights go out and a spotlight circles the crowd. and, as luck should have it again, it lands on Johnny. Johnny is sits cool, calm and collected. The head clown comes up to him and says..
"Hey mister, are you the horse's head?"
"No." Johnny replies.
"Are you the horse's ear?"
"No"
"Are you the horse's tail?"
"No"
"Then you must be the horse's ASS!!!!"
And again the whole tent erupts with laughter. Except for Johnny. He sits there staring straight at the clown, a look of pure evil and hate on his face. The laughter quickly dies down as everyone knows something is going to happen. The crowd watched. This is Johnny's moment. He takes a deep breath, looks at the clown and says...
"FUCK YOU, CLOWN!"

I think that pretty much sums it up....

1 comment:

  1. Fuck you and the bike seat you ride on, mister! Loved this post and love the stories. I only wish I had been there to make the girls swallow their racketballs just like they did every other weekend at the discount drive-in.

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