Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why didn't I say...

It's been a long time since a lady has rubbed herself up against me at a bottle shop. I can't even remember the last time.

She had just knocked off from work at Woolworths and would have been around fifty. Let's call her Glenda. She'd walked in but for some reason decided to abandon her purchase and leave. Now it had never occurred to me that this was a feasible scenario in a bottlo and I was following her into the shop at a fair clip (I do get excited about purchasing alcohol).

She did a spin on the spot with two bags of groceries and I had so much inertia that I was only able to reduce my momentum, not stop it entirely and *squish* suddenly we were in each other's arms. After a more intimate moment than either of us had expected she jumped backwards obviously embarrassed.

My first instinct was to quell any embarrassment and I knew that a simple quip would do the job. We'd both laugh and the awkward moment would evaporate. I only had two seconds at the most. I could feel the gag forming in my brain but it didn't come. And *whoosh* Glenda was out the door, all a-fluster.

And then it came, seconds too late.

We've all had that moment. 'Damnit. Why didn't I say...' The moment passes. The opportunity lost. I used to have them all the time back in high-school. That's the biggest frustration from bullying. The power that they take from you. The bruises heal but the hell you go through afterwards thinking "If only I'd said this maybe I wouldn't feel so worthless".

Down Side
"I wish I wasn't such a pussy."

I had so many opportunities to practice. And each time I'd try desperately to gather together some witty retort but they'd always come out over wordy and complex OR if I was really unlucky with horribly bigoted undertones.

And then a moment of serendipity.

In tech drawing a class bully called Michael was hassling some other kid.

"Leave him alone dickhead".

I wondered who had decided to intervene and do the thing I wished I had the power to do. Everyone was looking at me...

Oh dear God no! It had been me. I was the one who'd opened my big mouth. Why had I invoked his wrath?

He strode over, full of heat and fury. He stood in front of my desk, grabbed me by the shirt and growled.

"Did you just call me Dick Head?"

There was no point denying it. I put on my bravest face.


Everyone was watching my most horrible of moments. He leaned in closer.

"Say 'Sorry' poofta!".

It just fell into place somewhere in my head. I didn't even have to think about it.

"Sorry Poofta"

The entire audience fell about in laughter. Michael deflated like a balloon. He tried to grapple with me for a few moments but realised I'd just scored a point off him no matter what happened. He retreated with some half hearted slur under his breath.

I imagine him later thinking 'If only I'd said...'

And so I was king for a moment (albeit king of a group of mildly homophobic fifteen year olds. I'm glad I grew out of that phase.) but this was the beginning of a journey that would leave me almost always with the right thing to say in any situation.

But Glenda rushed out the door a split second before I realised it would have been as simple as saying 'You'll have to buy me a drink first'.

And if I'd run after her to tell her that, it would have been a very different message I was sending.


  1. The French call it... "esprit d'escalier" - the "spirit of the staircase".

    Those French have a word for EVERYTHING. And if they don't, the Germans do.

    Nice post. :)

  2. I had to come to Australia to learn this expression!
    Good one :-)


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