Joan Rivers’ recent passing – and Robin Williams’ before that – a stark reminder that funny people die too – got me thinking about what people might say about me after I’m gone wheneverthatisandIhopeit’snotsoon, he chants, in a mantra-like reflex.
I don’t know about afterlives – there are few reliable books on the subject, the New Testament maybe, but – treading carefully here – coming back after death only happened once, making it less than a statistically significant sampling. (And even that “once” is questionable in some circles.)
Let’s say death isn’t entirely the end – although after it happens you do tend to take noticeably less clothing into the dry cleaners. Let’s say you can hover for a few days, just to hear what they’re saying about you after you’re gone. I mean, you gotta be a little curious, don’t you? A eulogy’s a kind of report card on your life. Hopefully with the “Gym” marks taken out.
I was brushing my teeth this morning, and the beginning of some possible Post-Earlian remarks began formulating in my head. I don’t mean the words I might say about myself. What I’d say is, “Take off those yarmulkes and go to the beach!”
I am imagining this person who is close to me – or maybe they drew straws and they lost, one or the other, as long as it wasn’t a person who really hated my guts, I mean, it’s bad enough I’m dead, what do I need that for? And while they’re delivering my eulogy, I am floating ethereally overhead, post-mortally eavesdropping on the proceedings below.
They unfold a sheet of paper – or possibly a thick sheaf of paper – and they begin.
EULOGIZER: Earl Pomerantz wasn’t the greatest television writer of all time…
HOVERING EARL: I wasn’t? Wait, okay. I know I wasn’t. But is this really the time to invoke rankings?
EULOGIZER: …but he may be the nicest person I ever met.
HOVERING EARL: Okay, stop. “The nicest person” – that’s the sum total of my life. “The Nicest Person” is like the “Good Sportsmanship Award” they give out at dinners to the worst ballplayer because they showed up for every game and at the end they loaded the bats and balls into the duffel bag.
Sure, it’s gratifying to be considered a nice person, but what exactly does that mean? How do you measure “The Nicest Person”? Is there some kind of international standard, or do they “mark it on the curve”? It can’t be, like, the nicest person ever, like I was nicer than Ghandi. I mean, that guy was a sweetheart!
Wait. It wasn’t the “nicest person.” It was “…the nicest person I ever met.” Think about that. There are probably a ton of people out there nicer than me. They just didn’t happen to run into them.
It is also obvious that my “Best Bud Eulogizer” never read my blog. I stole plays from Foyles Bookstore. I woman introduced herself to me and I asked who she was and she told me she’d been my personal assistant for two years! I mean, who is this Bozo hanging out with that I’m the nicest person they ever met?
Wait, I forgot. There’s that “weenie qualifier” – “may be.” Meaning that I am not for a certainty the nicest person they ever met, I just may be the nicest person they ever met. Suggesting that if they took a moment to think about it, it is possible – or even likely – they could come up with an ever-expanding list of nicer people.
“May be” allows them some “wiggle room.” If they’re ever called to deliver a eulogy for somebody else, they could justifiably pull that out again! “May be” could be an unlimited number, hundreds of people tied for “Nicest person they ever met.”
Well, there goes my uniqueness.
Anyway, at its best, how big a deal is that to be the nicest person they ever met? Who knows how much they get around?
“I know four people. Earl’s the nicest.”
You know, if you really knew me, Mr. or Ms. Eulogizer, you would know how much those atomizing qualifiers offend me.
“Some people say…”
How many people? Eleven? I hate that stuff. It is misleading and utterly meaningless!
“May be” is your exonerating “Escape Route.” “May be” gets you entirely off the hook. Remember Bush, the Son, in that presidential debate?
“The medicine from Canada may not be safe.”
The guy was entirely protected! If the medicine from Canada wasn’t safe, he warned us. And if it was, hey, he never definitively said that it wasn’t.
What have we got for my final send-off? A “slam” for not being the greatest television writer followed by a “Good Sportsmanship Award”, with a qualifier at each end. And that’s only the first sentence!
You know what? – I’ve had it. I have to die… I’ve been told.
But I am not going till they get it right.