Thursday, October 22, 2009
There was a time not so long ago when my children were always saying funny things... mispronouncing words, misunderstanding their meanings, and the like. It was part of learning how to communicate verbally. Now, apparently, the roles are being reversed, and I’m the one who doesn’t always understand what’s being said.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at the computer proof-reading the chapter of a children’s tale I had written. My thirteen-year-old daughter Josie came into the bedroom and plopped onto my bed behind me, listening half-heartedly to the news that was on CNN. I can usually block out extraneous noise when I’m writing, but something about one particular news story grabbed my attention.
The Prime Time anchor read from the tele-prompter.
Earlier today, a woman in a shopping center dropped the “F-bomb” in the midst of fellow shoppers. An off-duty fire inspector was nearby, and asked her to refrain from doing it again, as there were children nearby. Enraged at the inspector, the woman began letting more “F-bombs” fly until finally, the officer arrested her and escorted her from the building.
I turned from my computer in amazement.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! You mean you can get arrested for farting in public, now?”
Josie looked at me incredulously, and then collapsed onto the pillows, giggling hysterically.
“Mum,” she gasped, “The F-bomb means she said the F-word!”
Well, THAT wasn’t what I’d been picturing, let me tell you! The mental image I’d had was one of a young mother who was out for an afternoon of shopping, which had been preceded by a lunch at a nice little restaurant. A restaurant where she’d probably consumed a cup of chili with beans followed by a broccoli quiche. At the shopping center, well, nature took its course like nature so often does--despite our wishes to the contrary--and the woman broke wind.
Admit it, it’s happened to the best of us. Muscles that control such things simply have a mind of their own at times, right? Most of us quickly walk from the spot of detonation, hoping that someone else will get the blame. If you’re really quick-witted, you might even scowl contemptuously at another passer-by or give them a reproachful glance, thereby fully depositing any guilt squarely upon another’s shoulders.
But not the star of my misunderstood news item! No, SHE stayed in place and bravely suffered the fallout from her bomb. And then, when this stranger, this FIRE INSPECTOR, called her to the carpet on it, did she blush in embarrassment and apologize, as most of us would do? No way! I’d been convinced that this woman possessed remarkable, incredible powers! I’d heard of being “mad enough to chew nails” and “mad enough to spit” but this woman, I thought, could flatulate on command! After all, she was “letting F-bombs fly!” That was something to almost—but not quite—be envious of.
And the fire inspector’s involvement? Well, in my scenario, he was concerning himself with the public welfare! A build-up of methane gas can be combustible and thereby dangerous to those humble citizens who pay his salary. Perhaps a woman who haphazardly threw around MY kind of F-bombs SHOULD be removed from public areas! But not arrested, no. I thought that was taking things a bit too far. Give her some Bean-o or Gas-X, but don’t give her a criminal record for loosing her pucker string in a crowd.
My brief vision of “The F-bomb That Could Have Leveled a Shopping Center” went up in a puff of smoke. (Sweet, nice-smelling smoke, like you’d get from incense or something…)
It was clear to me that I wasn’t “up” on the latest slang.
It could be argued that someone saying the F-word in public SHOULD be reprimanded. I acknowledge that there is a distressful increase in distasteful--and sometimes downright foul--language that is casually uttered these days in public, in print, and on TV. But arrested for it? I’m not sure. I guess without witnessing the whole scenario, I can’t give a firm opinion on it--although getting thrown in jail for it doesn’t seem very American to me. And arrested by a fire marshal? I don’t get that. An off duty fire marshal? Nuh, uh. It seems to me like he wanted some attention or notoriety from the incident because chances are it wouldn’t have escalated into a “letting F-bombs fly” scene if he’d chosen to handle the situation in a manner that wasn’t so antagonistic.
The bottom line is, I don’t know.
What I DO know is that my mother never would have dropped an F-bomb—not my kind nor Josie’s, not in public nor in the privacy of her own home! She was and is a lady, and in the house where I grew up, to say “break wind” in the vernacular was to utter a four-letter word. You didn’t say it. You didn’t drop it. And you didn’t let it fly. And you NEVER misunderstood what she was talking about, the way I misunderstood the CNN reporter.
I only hope that I can be half as good an example to my daughter as Mum was to me. But I despair. Josie’s already perfected the art of blaming the dog.
This 'Observations from The F.A.R.M. (Fresh Air and Room to Move)' column was one of two I wrote which won 3rd place in the Maine Press Association's Better Newspapers contest. The photo was taken in Trantens Family Grocers' parking lot this afternoon. I have no idea what this lovely lady's name is, but she looked to be perfectly capable of dropping a F-bomb.