I’m going to tell you about three conversations. All of them ended abruptly, because on each occasion, I had no idea how to respond. I’m rapidly getting older, and it would be nice to know how to handle such situations before I die. Maybe you can help.
I buy a new car. The man who sold it to me says, “I want you to promise me something.”
I say, “What is it?”
The salesman replies thusly:
“We take pride in our product. We think it’s the best machine on the road. But we’re not perfect. So I want you to make a list. Any problem you’re having with the car – anything, large or small – I want you to immediately write it down. When you come in for you six hundred-mile check-up, I want you to show that list to our mechanic, and he’ll fix you up, right on the spot. Will you promise me you’ll do that? Will you promise me you’ll make that list?”
“Any problem. Large or small.”
I drive the car. Everything’s fine. Except for one tiny glitch. The clock on the dashboard. I can’t get it to work. I show up for my six hundred mile check-up, I hand the mechanic my list. There is one item on it.
“The clock doesn’t work.”
The mechanic reads it, then hands me back my list, accompanied by a three-word response.
“They never do.”
I have no idea what to say.
There’s stable in Burbank where you can rent horses and go riding. It’s not a formal trail ride, there’s no riding group, no leader. They put you on a horse, and you ride through a tunnel under the freeway into nearby Griffith Park. When your hour is up, you ride back to the stable, and return your horse.
I’m having an enjoyable ride. I always do. To my horse’s steady hoof beat, I sing cowboy songs in my head, and sometimes, out of my mouth. “Wyatt Earp.” “High Noon.” “Rawhide.” “Yancey Derringer.” In reality, I’m in Griffith Park. But in my fantasy, I’m
Riding the trail to who knows where
Luck is my companion, gambling is my game.
At the appropriate time, I turn my horse around, and head back to the stable. A memorable ride.
About a hundred yards from the barn, my horse decides to lower its front knees to the ground and roll over on its side. Since one of my legs is on that side, and I don’t want the horse to squash it when it rolls over, I take my feet out of the stirrups, and I wisely jump off.
Sensing my departure, the horse immediately reverts to a standing position and trots, riderless, back to the stable.
I walk back. Horseless.
I search out the guy who runs the place, and I say,
“My horse dropped to the ground and rolled over, and he came back by himself.”
To which, the guy who runs the place, replies,
“He always does.”
Once again, I am speechless.
This last one has touch of a Twilight Zone vibe to it.
I’m sitting in this diner. A little fancier. A diner with wood paneling.
I like what they serve there. Hearty food but healthy, like turkey meat loaf with mashed potatoes. It suits me just fine.
The main draw, however – the reason I go there and have been for years – is their tapioca pie. It’s just how I like it. Not too sweet, smooth texture, a delicate, light crust. For me, that place’s tapioca pie really hits the spot.
So there I am, perusing the menu, and to my surprise and chagrin, there’s no tapioca pie. It’s been taken off the menu.
I’m totally devastated. Tapioca pie is my favorite thing there. And now it’s gone.
The waitress comes up to take my order. I tell you what I want to eat, and then add, wistfully, but with a hint of complaining,
“You don’t have tapioca pie anymore.”
To which the waitress replies,
“We never did.”
That one really stopped me cold. But this time, I’m determined to say something.
“Yes you did,” I shoot back.
To which the waitress replies,
“No we didn’t.”
We go back and forth for a few rounds, “Yes, you did”, “No, we didn’t”, until I’m reminded of my favorite Monty Python sketch, “Argument”, chuckle ruefully, and give up.
Maybe there are no answers in these situations. “They never do”, “He always does”, “We never did” seem designed as conversation stoppers, and they successfully fill the bill. Maybe the correct response is to throw your hands in the air, cut your losses, and walk away.
But just once, just once…
As I said, maybe you can help.