In the gym yesterday, one locker's door was dangling off the top row like a broken shutter. I think it was attached by just a couple screws in the bottom hinge. I was gathering up my gear and putting my jacket on to leave when one of the employees walked over to the broken locker. He lifted the door up and pressed it shut against the back housing of the locker units. Fixed.
Except not fixed.
I wanted to say something. I wanted to say, "Hey, man, where's your common sense? Why not use the five or six active cells in your walnut-sized dollop of ectoplasmic paté that impersonates a human brain, and think about the next poor fucker who opens that locker. With no top hinge on there, what do you reckon is going to happen? Won't that three-foot high door swing down and split open the guy's skull like a lobster tail? What the hell?! That's not fixed, you douchepacker. It's half-cocked and loaded!"
I wanted to. I didn't.
Because something happened recently. Nothing tragic, just this: My son H, who will be 5 in a few months, has picked up an unkind word from a schoolmate. "Stupid." For about a week or so, he's been trying it out at home, and getting an earful of fatherly advice every time. He understands. He gets it. It's turned into an experiment for him at this point. He and I will be having a conversation about something and he'll interrupt himself to say, "I'm going to say... 'stupid.'" He'll raise an eyebrow and look at me to note the reaction this catalyst sparks from me.
"Be careful with that word, H. Don't get into trouble...."
He'll say the word and I'll tell him again that he shouldn't call people stupid. As I said, he knows it now. I think the novelty of seeing me react so seriously to the first few times he said it ("My teacher is stupid," and a phone message to his cousin that ended, "Happy birthday, stupid") caught him off guard.
"Listen to me, H. Saying things like that is like hitting someone... with words." It's a clear lesson for what is, perhaps, the worst thing he's done. But every time I discuss it with him, I feel like a fraud. I mean, his dad is a cynical and sarcastic misanthrope with a multi-functional, 24/7 insult factory operating within his cerebrum. The black and white lessons of childhood frustrate me. I can't wait until he can comprehend nuance. Once he's old enough to understand shades of grey and the subtle variations in human comportment, I can tell him what I really want to tell him. I can look him in the eyes and say it's OK to call 'em as he sees 'em. But leave words like "stupid" to the... stupid, and tongue-strafe them with style.
Years later, he and his brother will be taking me out to walk the grounds of my "living facility," when a careless attendant hurriedly slams a door in my face. My waning lucidity will allow me to witness my life's reward: hearing H snap, "Hey knuckle-fucker, you just let the door hit my father! Did you not see us here, you swag-bellied assclown?"
* * *
And as long as I'm here, there's something else. New rule: If you want to call another human being "a cancer," you yourself must have cancer. Outside of oncologists, there is apparently no group with more practical experience spotting a cancer than the professional baseball player. Once or twice per season, some overpaid hayseed identifies a former teammate as having been "a cancer in the clubhouse." Baseball's opening day for diagnoses came earlier this week when Jonathan Papelbon biopsied former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez, and told Esquire, "We weren't afraid to get rid of [Ramirez]. It's like cancer. That's what he was. Cancer. He had to go."
Cancer is the Adolf Hitler of cellular diseases; and it's wise not to compare anybody to either.
I can't believe the New York tabloids didn't jump at the chance for a "PAP SMEARS MANNY" headline.