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A Lesson In Panhandling And Communication

I had a friend who pointed out that things happen to and around me that do not happen to other people. Had is a deceptive word. It isn’t as if she died, she just works somewhere else now.

When she’d bring the subject up, I’d deny it. We’d argue. Arguing my position was tough because she had a list of things that made her undeniably correct. Usually I’d just claim victory and leave before she got to the end of the list. Getting away before she completed her list wasn’t hard, the list was pretty long.

My friend is right. I am no longer denying it. I’ll admit it to her if I see her again.

Here is what happened to move me to the other side.

So There I Was, Minding My Own…

Large image of an ATM Photographed inside a Gi...

There was an ATM in there. I wasn’t planning to use it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A panhandler approached me as I was about to cross the street. “Excuse me” she said. I turned to see who’d said it. I wished I hadn’t, but I couldn’t just ignore an “excuse me”. The woman who was there provided a quick tale of woe, then began her closing with “could you spare…”.

Even though the internet is miraculous, I can’t see you as you read this. But I know that you’re probably saying “that’s not anything special, it happens to me all the time”. No, it doesn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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How To Talk Dirty…

…Accidentally, And On Purpose

English: Egg Tempera on Canvas

Not this Bacon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was only one other customer in the bagel shop when I walked in. The manager and another employee were making a sandwich for him. The employee was teasing the manager by handing her bacon, once slice at a time. The young man was embarrassed when he saw me there.

I joked with them a little to let them know I wasn’t bothered. I said “don’t worry about it, I wouldn’t interrupt when you’re handing out the bacon.” I thought about how that sounded and added “I know that sounds dirty, but I don’t mean it to be.”

Accidental dirty talk is something we all will find ourselves doing at one time or another. When I made my bacon remark I was referring to what I’d seen him doing. How do we end up in these (unintentionally) embarrassing situations?

It Isn’t What You Say, It Is How You Say It

Bacon, the good kind (public domain, wikipedia)

Let’s examine the bacon remark because it is structured in the way that most accidental potty mouth phrases are. Handing out the bacon follows a simple grammatical pattern – action verb, adjective, noun. There may be other modifiers in there, but you can accidentally imply something using just three words. That pattern can be modified to action verb, adjective, adjective, noun, as in “handing out the crispy bacon”. Adding the second adjective turns plain dirty talk to filth.

That simple pattern can be filled with most any words that fit those parts of speech to become part of an unintentionally suggestive remark. Allow me to provide you with some examples:

When I walked in, he was buttering his toast.

The mechanic rotated her tires.

I asked the maid to polish my silver before she left.

These examples are innocent sentences about ordinary things. They are also suggestive sentences about naughty things. Why? Because they fit the pattern.

Understanding the pattern of these phrases helps us understand why we find ourselves feeling awkward about something we said, when we didn’t really say anything that bad. But the pattern is instructional as well.

If It Works Accidentally, It Can Work On Purpose

The pattern teaches us that innocent words can convey not so innocent acts. If they can do that accidentally, we can also use them intentionally for the same purpose. This is a handy tool to have when there’s a need to communicate about a delicate topic in public, in mixed company, or in any setting where saying exactly what is meant may not be appropriate.

Suppose a man and a woman are lunching in a restaurant. The man mentions interest in buying furniture from a mutual friend. The woman has critical, yet naughty information. She responds:

Jeff told me he is selling that chair because he walked in on his roommate sitting in it while he was cleaning his gun.

The speaker has communicated valuable information. She’s done so in a way that communicates exactly what happened in the chair, but is inexact. Using an inexact phrase lets her get the message across without offending anyone who might overhear.

Advanced Technique, If You Know What I’m Saying

There are times when we want the subtlety of the suggestive remark, with a little something extra. There is a special linguistic tool you can use when that something extra required is calling attention to and magnifying the effect of your suggestive remark. That tool is the phrase “if you know what I’m saying”.

“If you know what I’m saying” is a signal to your audience that they should read additional meaning and power into the message. Let’s consider two very similar examples:

I couldn’t get into the bathroom because Bob and Lisa were in there re-grouting the tile.

I couldn’t get into the bathroom because Bob and Lisa were in there re-grouting the tile, if you know what I’m saying.

The first example implies that these people might have been involved in something that did not require tile spacers. The addition of the “if phrase” in the second leaves no doubt about what was going on.

Don’t Get Carried Away

We all make mistakes. Many of us have found ourselves stumbling into this linguistic pattern and sounding like we were making an accidental implication. Because we all make mistakes, we forgive each other for those stumbles.

Where the intentional use of this speech pattern becomes unacceptable is when it crosses the line into being creepy.

I recently read the story of a young woman in a coffee shop who ordered whipped cream in her drink. An older man in line behind her said “oh, you like your fat whipped.” His implication was purposeful, directed at a stranger and is the epitome of creepy.

The knowledge of talking dirty that I’ve given you here is powerful. It should only be used with careful consideration of the social contract we all live under.

Please talk dirty responsibly. Perhaps you’d like to write a naughty comment below, if you know what I’m saying.


Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Buy Books. Do Good.

This is the last of a three-part series that starts here.

My parents got through to me that applying myself – at school, at work, and with the people around me – was important.  They’d steered me right before, so I went with that idea. I hit the books harder and hustled at work.

My senior year started. My grades went up, my times on the cross-country team went down. Ziggy proved my parents right too.

Gutsy Or Foolish. Perhaps Both.

Italian Sausage Pizza

Like it, don’t smell like it (Image by gtrwndr87 via Flickr)

Three people managed Ziggy’s restaurant. One left for greener pastures, or perhaps somewhere where he didn’t go home smelling like sausage. Whatever the reason, the Ziggy’s Pizza management team was one body short. Read the rest of this entry »


Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Say What You Mean.

In my earlier Ziggy’s Pizza post, I introduced you to the owner of the restaurant where I got my first job. Though Ziggy and his restaurant are gone, the lessons I learned from him stay with me.

Today we’ll discuss the second communication lesson I learned from “The Owner”.

We rejoin this tale of my youth a few weeks into my pizza making career. I was still sixteen years old. Ziggy stopped by the restaurant, lingered a bit, then pulled me aside when an order came in. “I’m going to show you how to make a pizza” he said, “get me a pizza crust.”

That’s Not Funny

Player catches frisbee

Tossing a Ziggy’s Crust (Image via Wikipedia)

The pizza crust at Ziggy’s was pre-made and par-cooked. It arrived in boxes and kept refrigerated. We’d grab the crusts, put stuff on them and slide them in the oven as the orders came in. There was no art to it. Read the rest of this entry »


Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Technically Correct Isn’t Correct.

A Genuine New York City-Size Pizza Slice

Pizza like this does not appear in this story (Image by pattie74_99 via Flickr)

When I was sixteen, I had a job at Ziggy’s Pizza. Ziggy and his restaurant are no more, but I still live by some of the lessons I learned in that little place.

At Ziggy’s, I learned about work and the adult world. I learned about food service. I learned about managing people. Mostly, even though it wasn’t what he was trying to teach me, Ziggy taught me about effective communication. He paid me $2.35 an hour to learn what he wasn’t teaching. Read the rest of this entry »


The Chilean Mine Collapse In Terms I Understand

I now know how I will be spending the next four months – waiting for the thirty-three miners in the mine collapse in Chile to be brought to the surface. Considering that I spent the last few months waiting for BP to do anything right, this will hopefully be a more refreshing venture.

A Factual Perspective That Gives Me No Perspective

Two tall towers—CN Tower, Willis Tower—from ce...

Image via Wikipedia

These people are 2300 feet underground. That is more than 4/10 of a mile from sunshine.

Here is a graph depicting some of the worlds tallest structures – the Burj Dubai, the CN Tower, and the building I will call the Sears Tower, even though I know that isn’t its name any more. You’ve surely seen pictures of the Burj Dubai. These guys are nearly one Burj Dubai underground.

I get creeped out in a dark basement. These miners go thousands of feet underground on a daily basis. Nearly three weeks ago, the way back up became no longer a viable option. They have been down in the earth ever since.

Early this week they were found to be alive, to the delight of their families and their nation. When they finally got a phone link down to them, the thirty-three miners sang the Chilean National Anthem. Read the rest of this entry »


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