Over the years, many times over the years, by people from many walks of life, I have been asked if I’ve always been a wise mouth. To that I’ve usually replied,
No, no, I don’t answer that way. It’s not really answering their important question now, is it? And I’m nothing if not someone who will answer people’s questions. Sometimes. Depending on the question. And my mood. Or if I talked to people that day.
At first I’d take umbrage to the question. Just like when hundreds of people would ask if I ever smiled when I was on a tennis court. Of course I had. Obviously not in front of any of them. Then the answer dawned on me so it became,
“I’m working. Do you smile when you’re working?”
That usually shut those nosey Nellies up.
But have you always been a wise mouth, that’s an interesting one. I doubt it. I probably didn’t come out of the womb reciting George Carlin’s seven best words ever. Wouldn’t that have been cool though? But there could have been a different reaction to that.
“Nurse, I think we squeezed this one’s head to hard with the forceps.”
“Maybe we should just keep squeezing.” The nurse would have responded.
“Now, now, Nurse Manson, we mustn’t make a habit of that. Besides, the world needs janitors and speed bumps.”
So the flawed question flummoxed me for a time. I needed the right analogy, the right tale to give them the full answer. Or at least let them come up with their own answer.
“When I was a kid,” I’d say pulling up a crate of cabbages and digging in to the dill pickle barrel. “Country clubs would have tennis tournaments. I always hated playing in them for many reasons. I must say I usually enjoyed the first round though because it was usually some dweeb from the country club who got a wild card entry and who’s parents thought he was the second coming of Bill Tilden (by that I mean they thought he was going to be gay not a great tennis player).
How the match went was purely on the parents. If they didn’t whine too much I’d drag the match out. But if they started whining it was lights the fuck out. I played one kid who’s mother started giving encouragement to her little darling during warm-ups while berating me. I didn’t mind the encouragement, who would? But why drag my lineage into it? While we were getting balls at the net I said to him,
‘I’m going to knock your dick into the dirt.’
Sure, it’s a phrase usually reserved for contact sports but I wanted to see if I could make him shit his pants and forfeit. That’s how much I wanted to terrify his mother.”
“Does this have anything to do with you’re always being a wise mouth?” They’d ask getting antsy they’d never get the answer. I’d just say hush. The answer is coming soon.
“One day I was just standing there. Not causing a commotion, not touching anything, not in anyone’s way. Just standing. When this lady came up to me and droned,
‘You know, guests are not permitted in the swimming pool.’
I’ll must say I was not near a pool. I’ll also add I was not in swim garb. I must also add that I was not under dresses for the occasion I was there for. I looked like a tennis player not an interloper from the nearby home for the deranged. She must have had her scum-dar for commoners working that day. I looked at her for a second then said,
‘Then your swim team must be great.’ She was taken aback that I would even speak to her.
‘What was that?’
‘Well, if guests can’t use the pool and, by definition if I’m a guest so are swimmers from outside teams, every visiting team would have to forfeit because they can’t use the pool.’ I turn but keep looking. ‘Pretty genius, actually.’ I walk away.
When I’m twenty feet away I turn back to look at her. I can see she’s questioning why she approached me in the first place but I also see that she’s totally confused by what just happened.”
I stop talking and look at the person who asked what is, to some, a simple question. In most cases they have the same expression as that long ago lady. But they come to grips with the story and always end up at the same place.
“So you’ve always been sort of a wise mouth?”