Words You Remember

Never work for someone who’ll pay you to stay home and cut fish.

          Said my 1984 mentor Master Sergeant Karp.  One reason I remembered these words was his name.  Another, his mutilation of the fish or cut bait adage, which I knew—after ten weeks of hating real Infantry shit on the Korean DMZ together—was intentional.  He always strove for subtle-funny and probably thought cut bait hit the ear too close to its intended target.  But, irony was the biggest reason I remember his words.  MSG Karp—in his 27th year of service—was advising that if I reenlisted, I should retire as soon as pension-eligible.

          I’d matured enough by the age of 25 to realize I was at one of life’s fulcrum points.  Get out, and return to hometown-Indiana to a disdainful wife, financially worse-off than the day I enlisted...or re-up for the MP Corps and get some income, training, and a divorce.

          I picked the serially-monogamous military life, and (following his advice) stopped fishing on the day they offered to pay me to sit home and masturbate.

Get on.  Stop bothering us.  Goddamn little shit!

          I was six.  Second grade.  Recess.  Running away from a horde of three girls who were making screeching giggle noises after me with a threat of kisses.  Out of breath, fearing seven-year old classmate cooties as seriously as I’d ever feared anything, I sought refuge near the playground monitors.  My teacher, Mrs Creane, and my teacher from the previous year, Mrs Devlin, were standing in a patch of morning sun, near the center of the cracked pavement, smoking cigarettes.  I plead for them to intercede on my behalf.  Mrs Devil said the words.  Mrs Crayon chuckled and waived me away.

          To be fair, she said the third sentence in a lower tone than the louder first two and she wasn’t looking at me when she said it.  To my adult sensibility, this does differ from staring and saying, stop bothering us you goddamn little shit.  That nuance was completely lost on the little tadpole running away from kisses.  Instead, a revered teacher was the first person to cuss me out, and I was shattered to tears.  The gigglers caught up to me as I walked into the shade of the building, failed to get their desired reaction, and left me alone.  At six (Santa, Easter bunny, and the Tooth Fairy now in jeopardy) I came to the harsh realization that adults were no longer sacrosanct.

Cheese.  Regular cheese.  Yellow.  You know, American.

          The words of a good friend of mine—Mike—were said to a Sydney, Australia, Hard Rock Café waitress, in response to her, ‘what kind would you like on that?’  His reply came after a brief pause and confused scowl.  She listed four or five choices and ended with... “there’s no such thing as American cheese.”  His incredulous, “of course there is.”  Caused me to interject, “He’ll have cheddar,” and then explain to my becoming-less-Xenophobic friend about the reality of flavored oil, known in his world as processed cheese food.

It’s kæ-mul, not car-mal.  Carmal’s a girl’s name...bloody American!

          Same vacation down under.  Said by a middle-aged woman standing in line behind me in an ice cream shop.  Her haughty, I’m an expert, what’s-the-world-coming-to mix of humor and disdain (specific to people with a Queen on their money) was barked at me after I asked the clerk for some caramel sauce.

          She was probably not an all-the-time cunt.  I suspect certain Australians in that tourist-laden northeast coastal city of Cairns—who pronounce their city’s name just like the rest of the world pronounces the film-festival-famous Mediterranean French city of Cannes (except the French of course, who don't pronounce the S)—have a mispronunciation sore spot.  I could've been the eighteenth dumb-feckin-shatter that day to flagrantly pronounce a silent R, forcing otherwise quiet Sheila to snap. 

          Now I live in Oregon.  When I hear people say Or-a-gone instead of Or-a-gun (which is the locally preferred way), I never get even the slightest impulse to point out their verbal faux pas.  Would I have that same insight if I was never corrected by a cunt from Cairns?

          The impetus of this post was Mary Whitsell at Resident Alien's post: Words You Remember.  Although there are times I hear things I never forget, there are other times I read things which cause me to write.  Thanks Mary.

1 comment:

Mary Witzl said...

Cooties -- what a curse they were! Everybody was always going on about them, but I was pretty sure I had them already. Half of time I spent in elementary school was taken up hiding my cootie infestation.

I was over 18 the first time I heard an adult say 'shit'. If I'd heard it at age 6, I might have been traumatized -- if I'd known what it meant.