Friday, August 25, 2017

signing me up

Speaking of signs (and we were speaking of signs just the day before yesterday), I ran across another I thought you might enjoy.

It is painted above a doorway in a restaurant I have frequented for the past nine years.  The owners have not been the same for all those years. Nor have the menus. It has gone through several permutations. But I have had the same table where I have watched humanity's Felliniesque parade march by.

And my table is well-situated for that. The restaurant is on one of San Patricio's busier streets -- right across from the bank with its comically postage stamp-sized parking lot. Desperate tourists looking for parking spaces. Car wash guys (and one gal) directing cars into the paths of others. Herds of families wandering by in various stages of undress.

It is a writer's gold mine for material. Walter Kirn, in Blood Will Out, would appreciate this mother lode.

A writer is someone who tells you one thing so someday he can tell his readers another thing: what he was thinking but declined to say, or what he would have thought had he been wiser.  A writer turns his life into material, and if you’re in his life, he uses yours, too.
Every person who sits and talks with me or says hello or simply wanders by is a potential flake of silver for Mexpatriate's pages.

At dinner last night, my breakfast pal Bill introduced me to another expatriate. Before I could say anything, Bill said: "Be careful what you say around Steve. It could end up in his blog."

I was taken aback by the comment until I realized -- it's true. Writers go through life picking over other people's lives as if we were magpies. And, if we do not like the pebbles we find, we polish them up and sell them as emeralds.

Which brings us to the sign. It was originally designed to be one of those messages from the Don Rickles School of Humor. Take a jaded bromide and reverse it for comic effect.

The fact that the second word is misspelled (whether intentionally or not; the owners are playing that bit of information close to their collective chests) makes it even funnier.

I was looking at it the other day and laughing when another expatriate wandered in. She looked at me, looked at it, and said: "That's wrong."

I chuckled. "Well, it is misspelled."

She looked confused and said: "No. It is supposed to say:'The customer is always right.'"

I responded: "Yes. That is the aphorism. But it is funny because of the reversal. And the misspelled word simply adds to the humor."

She harrumphed. "Well, I don't see what is funny. It is just wrong."

And that is the danger of humor. The literalists who walk amongst us will never understand a joke if it requires explanation. I once worked with a woman like that. She was offended when people "misused" words in an attempt to be witty.

But, I know you are a group of folks steeped in wit and would never fall into the heresy of literalism. So, enjoy.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should confess that the current owners have honored my little table where I have dined for almost a decade -- where some of the first Mexpatriate tales were written.

Thanks, Julio, Joyce, and Gary.


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