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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Avoid Clichés Like The Plague

I have a beef with clichés. I’m not down with them. I’m, like, totally against them. Dude.

Little verbal crutches, that’s what they are. Clichés, I mean. The words and phrases that we use to try to convince others that we’re really communicating, when in fact we’re just taking up time.

“Hot enough for ya?”

Honestly, I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of chatter, especially if it truly is hot enough for me. If we just happen to be standing waiting for the bus, well, sometimes, I just don’t want to talk. It’s nothing personal. I wake up slowly and have a voice like an amphibian in need of a drink. Honestly, if it’s super early on a cold damp morning or raining on a steaming hot afternoon – it’s okay to just stand there! A smile is good. A nod is kinda nice, too, in a Minnesota Nice kind of way. But we don’t need to speak, not all the time. Especially if we’re going to just fill the hot air with more hot air.

But still, I hear you. I’ve been asked a question; and somewhere in me, I can’t help but take it at face value. I actually have to think about it. Is it hot enough for me? Hmm. I guess so, yeah. How about you? Is it hot enough for you?

I know I sound cranky about it, but really, I just wonder why we bother. These automatic responses we’ve developed so that we don’t have to really pay attention? We don’t even hear the words as they leave our lips.

Overheard on the bunny hill:
Someone: “My fingers aren’t going to stand a snowball’s chance in hell in these gloves.”
Someone Else: “Yeah, it’s cold as hell out here.”

Uh, what?

My father was not a believer in the cliché. He said it was just laziness. I remember, particularly in junior high, that he made a point of calling out clichés and other “word tricks”, as he put it.

But now that I think of it, I realize that clichés are not just verbal…

Randy and I were both in 9th grade. He’d come around and work on bikes with my brother Kevin. Randy had a limited vocabulary of “yeah, right”, “oh, man” or “OK”. I mean, it was pretty much a toss-up which one of those five words he’d say because there didn’t seem to be any pattern to how he used them; but odds were good that you wouldn’t get too much more out of him than that. He wasn’t mean or disrespectful; he just seemed to be high all the time. And when he did say words that weren’t any of those five words, he spoke entirely in clichés. His favorite radio show “friggin’ rocks”, his favorite subject in school was “lunch”, and the car he was going to get when he turned 16 was going to “kick ass”.

This fascinated my Dad – not the part about him being stoned, but the part about him seemingly able to communicate only in words and ideas that had been prepackaged for him.

Dad asked me about it. “You ever notice that Randy only really says a handful of words?”

“Yeah, right.”

Dad smiled. “Are you being funny?”


Dad frowned at me in a thinking sort of way. “But he does, doesn’t he?” He shook his head. “I just don’t get it.”

A week or so later, Randy and Kevin were in the back yard. The bikes were upside down. The tools were out. Attempts were being made at fixing something or other.

“Randy!” My dad yelled out the kitchen window. “You want to stay for dinner?”

“Yeah! OK!” Randy yelled back.

“Yeah, OK, what?” my dad yelled. He winked at me. He was playing a game with Randy, trying to get him to say another word, that word properly being “please”.

“Yeah, OK, cool!”

“Groovy!” Dad yelled back. And that’s how it usually went.

We moved from there a year later. We lost contact with Randy until many years later, when I got a letter from him. He was in prison in New Jersey for racketeering, would be out in just 23 more months and what would I do if I suddenly had access to 275,000 dollars, would I be willing to meet with a guy?

Nah. I wasn’t willing to meet with no guy.

Randy wrote back that I would always be his angel and that he “looked forward to the days our paths cross again”. (There was a small silver angel pin with pink plastic wings in the envelope.)

I wonder if Randy is still relying on clichés?


ICKY said...

Like "don't drop the soap"?

Pearl said...

Yes. Just like that.

Sandra Romfo said...

fun post:)