Good. Evil. Bratwurst.

The Meaning Of Words

Posted on by arlen

Sometimes, words mean much more than we might think to the person we speak them to. And last far longer. This one’s for you, Lee.

It was nearing the end of the arrival day at a large convention some years back. The identity of the convention is irrelevant to my point, so I’ll neither name it nor explain it.

This thing had started going pear-shaped before I ever got to the office. I didn’t know how I was going to manage things, if I even could. I’d been making a few changes here and there, but nothing seemed to help. I was on the point of just giving up.

Then this feisty lady wheeled up to my desk (OK, table). We had not been kind to her at all, and she had some (valid) points to make about this. At the end of it all, she drew herself up, looked me in the eye and said:

“I know you. You’re better than this.”

I’m sorry Lee. You had more to say after that point, but try as I might, I don’t recall what it was. I’m not sure I ever really heard it. I was stuck on that line.

One of the least attractive features of the truth is the way that nasty little stinger in its tail generally finds the most sensitive spot to dig in and deliver its payload. This was no exception.

I sat there, well and truly stung, still processing those words as I watched her wheel away. I couldn’t say anything; she was right, hang it. I was better than this. Those four little words got farther under my saddle better than any burr. A couple of the people working for me noticed the change, and settled in beside me for the ride.

I won’t say I made that pear-shaped monstrosity work, because I certainly didn’t. We did. It was a team effort all the way; I merely stood up on my hind legs and played my role. By the end, we were getting compliments about how smooth it was going and how much better it was than the speaker thought (or was afraid) it would.

But the story doesn’t end here, nor is it simply about the one convention. There have been times since then, at conventions and elsewhere, when I’ve been backed into a corner and tempted to just “phone it in.” But whenever that moment has come, I hear the wheels roll up, and those four words, all ground up in gravel, drop into my inner ear: “You’re better than this!”

I thanked her for it after the convention, but I never really had the chance to thank her properly, until recently.

But that’s another story.

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September 2012
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