When I was born, the gypsy mid-wife took one look at me and declared that I would be full of Smart Aleck for the rest of my life. Once the curse was placed upon me, my life story was basically written.
There is a good side to the Smart Aleck Curse, in that many people enjoy a side of snark with their meal of life’s little indignities and tribulations. It certainly has been a social lubricant in some respects, and I do enjoy making people laugh, even if it’s the kind of laugh that says, “Oh my god, that is so bad. I’m not sure I should be laughing at that, but I kind of can’t help myself.” I’ve made a lot of friends who enjoy my company because I’m funny, and once they get to know me, they can tell that the snark is never meant to hurt them.
At least, I hope that they all know that! It’s crucial to make sure that the naughty or acid tongue doesn’t wound anyone too deeply, or you friendships corrode. It’s not always the easiest tightrope to walk.
The other part of the Smart Aleck Curse is that once afflicted, it is difficult if not impossible to wield the Snark on unsuspecting strangers, to varied results. I have suffered the bewildered or wilting looks of many people in the service industry, because I just.can’t.keep.my.mouth.shut. How I wish that the impulse to say something dumb would be squashed when I see someone behind a counter. I try to remember to start out pleasant, smile, say please and thank you, and then…the stupid remark sneaks into my brain. “No, stupid comment, you may not come out and play,” I say to myself, but it is bursting to get out, like a forgotten fermented jug of apple cider in the pantry. And…the interaction turns weird. They either laugh (thank the gods) or they immediately decide that I am a special kind of asshole, and go fetch a supervisor. Damn. It was going so well up until now.
A short compendium of snark and stupidity that made me into special kind of asshole:
In college, making a joking remark to an older professor about how whatever we were talking about and how her husband might respond to her if she said thus and such. Moments after it was out of my mouth, I realized that she and a good portion of the class were staring at me aghast. It turned out that most of the class knew that her husband was deceased, something I didn’t know until that ghastly moment. Picture me sliding slowly under my desk, into the hole in the floor, and straight to hell. I endured a heart-to-heart discussion with her at a later date regarding not following what she perceived to be a classmate’s bad influence, but the truth is, that was all me. All Smart Aleck Curse.
Anyone who listens to the show knows that I am an especially obsessed Steve Winwood fan, and that adulation spills over to his very talented touring band. Paul Booth, who just about plays everything but drums during the course of one of their concerts, is a great jazz horn player, and an all around good guy with a great sense of humor. He understands my sense of humor, and is the best sport about teasing humor. My friend and I were lucky enough to be told about a very small, hastily organized show that he was playing in New York, featuring members of Steve Winwood’s band and members of Rod Stewart’s band (who Steve was touring with). My friend, who is another Winwood fan extraordinaire, and I were very excited, and amazed to be in the presence of so many talented musicians and their pals. Almost everyone in the room was involved in the tour in some way, except for me and my friend. Carried away by excitement, I saw Paul preparing his saxophone for the show right in front of the tiny stage, and I called to him, a few feet away, “Hey Paul! Try not to suck!” As soon as it was out of my mouth, I read his expression to mean that perhaps that kind of kidding was okay when we were standing around joking, but not in front of all of his peers. I cringed a little, and I’m sure my face went red. Just then, a female member of Rod Stewart’s band who was sitting on the next bar stool looked me up and down with a cold, eastern block nation stare, and asked me in her thick accent, “Are you a super fan?” I was not familiar with the term, but considering the timing, the delivery and the look on her face, I read it to be a euphemism for “Special Kind of Asshole”. I was so flustered, I don’t remember what I answered, but in that moment, I think she was merely confirming my status. I mentally crawled out to the street, climbed into my Special Asshole Mobile, and drove away…even though my body stayed for the show.
A friend from college had an abortion, and it was a very tightly held secret, of which I was one of only perhaps four people who was privy to this information. One night, a couple of people were joking around, and my friend joked that she was a virgin. I came back with a phrase that my father had used many times as I was growing up, always in the context that someone was NOT a virgin. Dad used to say, “Not unless there is a star shining in the east!” It wasn’t until the moment it was out of my mouth, and I saw the stricken look on my friend’s face, did I realize that the other connotation to that comment was that there was a pregnancy involved. Certain that I had said it to make clear that there had been a pregnancy involved, she swiped back at me with lightening speed with a reference to something I was ashamed of. No matter how much I apologized and explained later, I am certain that she never believed my innocent slip, nor did she forgive me.
I know that there are others of you cursed with the same affliction, and you will recognize yourselves in these stories, and feel my pain as you wince with the second-hand humiliation. There are others of you that will think, “How could you say that stupid thing?” Those of you asking that question were clearly not the ones chosen by the gypsy – not the ones with the sign of the Curse. For the rest of you, my people, I will see you at the monthly meetings.