12/23/14 Superlatives from the Start

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
C.S. Lewis

Superlatives have been on my mind a lot lately. No, not Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, as they actually fit the bill as well as any superlative I am aware of. I’m talking about your regular, ordinary, every day superlatives. Too frequently, we start out with them, leaving us no where to go, having painted ourselves into a corner, or boxed ourselves in with our words, which, having been said, must be defended. By what means will one exercise a defense if no suitable words are left?

We use words to communicate with each other. Sure, there are non-verbal communications. Former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, a collegiate athletic superlative himself, Johnny “Football” Manziel, uses non-verbal communications on the field all the time, as do some poor drivers, or those victimized by them. The favorite symbol of Johnny Football is a poor starting place, since, if it’s ineffective, how can he expect to improve on it? Of course, Johnny Football has yet to rise to superlative performance in the NFL, and despite his talent it may be that he is too short and too testy to make a good career there. It could also be detrimental to his career that he’s with the Cleveland Browns, that graveyard of quarterbacks…the place they go before they buy car dealerships and bad restaurants.

“Hey, Johnny,” said an unhappy patron, “This is the world’s worst hamburger.” Whereupon Johnny picked the hamburger off his plate, rubbed it on the floor, and smacked the patron in the face with it while making his superlative gesture.

“Now,” shouted Johnny at the hamburger wearing customer, “It’s even worse than worst! It the most worst.”

It’s hard to out-superlative some people.

College campus activists love to use the word “hate.” If you disagree with them on anything, you are hating, a hater, a hate-filled cretin, filled with backwards hatefulness. Even the trendy new meme of “micro-aggression” means that one is secretly filled with hate. And offending someone….? Oh, please. People are now offended by the most innocent things and respond with accusations of hate.

“Ma’am,” said the harried shopper, having been told by his wife to bring home certain brands of certain items and not one item more or less, to the woman with the two-ton laden cart and four snot-nosed kids using a six-pack of ramen noodles as a football in an impromptu game on aisle six, “Could you please move your shopping cart. You are blocking the aisle.”

“Don’t you be showering your hate on me,” shouted the woman. “I’ve got a right to be in this aisle.”

“Yes, ma’am, you do,” he replied, “But so do I, and I merely asked you to move your cart so I could pass. I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you, but what I am observing is leading me in the direction of a certain lack of fondness.”

“See,” she shouted, “Your hate is coming right out. You haters can’t hide yourselves.”

“No, ma’am. You’ve got it all wrong. What I hate is this list in my hand and being in this supermarket. What I am not enjoying is your impediment to my progress.”

“It’s clear that you hate women. You hate vaginas, uteruses, ovaries, breasts, and unshaven legs and armpits, too, I’ll bet,” she said.

“Actually, a couple of those things most men would claim to have somewhat of a fondness for, ma’am,” he said. “But I don’t have time for this. I just want to pass by and get to the latest best-if-used-by-dated 6 ounce squeeze bottle of Zatarain’s Spicy Mustard, which is the last thing on this list. If you won’t move aside, I’ll just go around the other way. Please excuse me.”

“So, you hate women and gays, too, do you? You hate my personal space and would shrink my aura. You claim the entire store for your privileged-self.”

“Pardon me?”

“It’s obvious to me.”

“Ma’am, it’s not obvious to anyone with any discernment,” he said, now wishing he had gone to another store. “I have engaged you in this conversation for this long merely because I thought it would be quicker to ask you to slightly move to the side. I can see now that I made an egregious error. Please forgive my intrusion on your space. Good day!” He turned his cart around just in time to get smacked in the face by an errant pass of the Ramen-noodle football, as he heard her shouting out calls for the store manager. He was glad he hit checkout number three when no one was in its queue. In a moment he was out the door, in his car, and headed across the parking lot, exiting just as a police cruiser with lights on turned in. He wondered if they were looking for him, or were they looking for the crazy woman who was probably abusing the store-manager and creating a loud disturbance if the store-manager was a man. God help him if he was.

Men are vile, abusive, obnoxious, odoriferous, noisy (grunt, snort, hack, spit, poot) opinionated, boorish, unrefined, and repugnant. Ask any woman. She will tell you, and will start out with superlatives, leaving her no where to go. She will be at a loss for words just as soon as she starts, except those women who know how to work a man…those who lead an unsuspecting clod of a man into thinking her idea was actually his own. Clever girls.

“Wouldn’t a nice hot bath be wonderful. It’d help you relax,” said the wife to her unkempt husband, already relaxed enough that he was about to slide right out of his double-stuffed recliner. “I’ll run you some water.”

“Nah!” he said, more like a grunt.

He was nearly asleep while watching the uninspiring Cleveland Browns get handily beaten by a team that was statistically much worse. He started thinking about sleeping in the bath of hot water instead of his easy chair. He rose with a snort and a grunt, went upstairs, filled the tub with water about as hot as he could stand, and slid in and instantly went to sleep. While asleep, his wife slipped in and started scrubbing him with a wire brush. He decided that he’d lock the door the next time he decided to take a bath.

I have rambled all around and talked of superlatives, giving examples that really have nothing to do with them. I am wasting my time and yours. It is a complete waste of yours…no, that is a superlative. It is a complete waste of mine…no, doubly superlative. It is not a complete waste of anything. If you are reading this, at least you aren’t watching TV, which is a more complete waste of your time. But that can’t be true because something that is complete cannot be made to be more complete, since if it can it wasn’t complete to begin with. My writing in free form is not a waste of my time, since I will have emptied my mental garbage by it…but then again, emptied is too strong a word since my mind will not be empty of garbage, only somewhat more empty than it was when I started.

“Sort of emptied” is less effective than “somewhat less cluttered.”

I have met a couple of people with fully vacuous minds, except for those medullary functions that keep them breathing, which makes them actually less fully vacuous than a dead person, who might more easily take full title to the superlative.

“How’s Johnny doing since the funeral?” the vacuous Monica asked Billy.

“He’s still dead, I suppose,” said the even more vacuous Billy.

Now that is a superlative that’s hard to top. Dead is dead. One can’t be deader this week than they were earlier. They can be dead longer, but certainly not more dead simply because of the passage of time.

“He’s been dead about two weeks now,” said Billy, his increasing vacuousness exposing itself to view in a widening ring of concentric circles expanding out like a pebble thrown into a pond. “He’s probably twice as dead now as he was when he first died.”

Monica nodded. I’m not sure that she knew what she was nodding to, but it is likely that it just seemed like the thing to do at the time. Perhaps she had no thoughts at all, just a Pavlovian response.

Their understanding of arithmetic was towering over their ability to think abstractly. Both of them could count money quite well, but neither of them could understand compound interest, or the boost in your favor of a free-odds bet placed at the craps table in a casino, and they both liked casinos. While their ability to count money and do simple arithmetic was apparent in their discussion of Johnny, their ability to calculate their personal odds of leaving the casino with more money than they went in with was zero. Well, zero has no superlative unless one leaves a casino not simply broke, but owing, a debt being a negative number that is superlative to a zero, though collecting a debt from a person with zero assets is rather difficult, if not an impossibility. Occasionally, the thought of their impecuniary circumstances would occur to them, but it was quickly replaced with thoughts of fancy signs, flashing lights, cheap buffets, free watered-down drinks, and the sound of brassy tokens hitting metal pans in the bottom of slot machines, a concerto, as it were, of the most sublime composition, as if Bach had inserted the sound of a twenty-five cent token rhythmically striking the stainless steel pan into one of his complex fugues, as if Haydn had inserted a double-handful of tokens being dumped into the pan into his Surprise Symphony.

“Johnny loved the slot machines more than anything,” said Monica, in sort of a mournful reflection.

“Yep. They about killed him, though. Took pretty near everything he had,” said Billy as the pulled into the parking lot of the Big-Time-Party Casino in Vicksburg, the best poor people’s casino in the world, having more nickel and penny slot machines than Las Vegas and Biloxi combined. Johnny had two rolls of nickels and three rolls of pennies. He was all set for the Big-Time-Party-Casino. Monica had an EBT card she could get a few dollars cash advance from on the ATM machine inside the casino.

“Those slots didn’t just about kill him,” said Monica as they walked through the door. “If they had just about killed him, he’d still be alive.” It was a moment of pure brilliance for Monica, but lost as soon as she heard the first token hit the metal pan in a nearby slot and spied the ATM machine across the football stadium sized floating barge of a casino floor.

Well, maybe it was not pure brilliance, since pure brilliance would not likely be tainted so easily. But a Monica moment of pure brilliance cannot be accurately juxtaposed to a moment of pure brilliance of an Einstein, a Tesla, or a Mozart. A moment of Monica pure brilliance was perhaps akin to a Kleenex, useful when in one’s hand, but dismissed immediately and never thought of again. She was uninspired, not recognizing anything to get inspired about. But wait, she was inspired by the slot machines.

She looked at the EBT card in her hand. She looked at the slot machines. For a moment, it seemed as though she may be thinking of other more important uses for the money credited to her EBT card, but that was merely her wondering just how much she had left on it she could access as cash. She had no idea. Perhaps she couldn’t count so well after all. Before she could get the card into the machine and enter her PIN, Billy was at her side, asking, “Can you loan me twenty dollars?”

More superlatives—-

“I move that we recognize Barack H. Obama as the most worst president, ever, and extend him an open invitation to join” said Millard, the chairman of the membership committee of the Worst Presidents Club of America Chapter #1, which was redundant since there was only one chapter.

“I second the motion,” said Warren.

“Alright. We have a motion on the floor and a second. We can now proceed to a vote,” said Chapter #1 president Edith Wilson, who was President from 1919 until 1921. “All in favor?”

Warren Harding, Chester Arthur, Jimmy Carter, Rosalyn Carter, Amy Carter, Ms. Lillian Carter, Millard Fillmore, William Harrison, U.S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Franklin Pierce all raised their hands, though Nixon was rather surly about the Carter women and Mrs. Wilson and often said so.

“All opposed?”

John Q. Adams sullenly raised his hand. He was outvoted and he knew it from the start, but he was against everything and for nothing. He was the surliest, most curmudgeonly, biggest know-it-all, puffed-uppedest, sourest-puss person one ever saw, which is such a string of superlatives as has never before been seen in the universe, ever, and will never likely be seen again. I am glad it was I who wrote them. I am the most superlative of the superlative-mongers. When I suggested this as a visitor to the Worst Presidents Club of America Chapter #1, everyone agreed except for John Q. Adams. It was not unexpected.

Now we have a most worst, which is similar to more dead, perhaps an illustration of Monica/Billy-esque brilliance.

I am reminded of the city that had three donut shops on the same block. Competition was fierce among them. One put up a sign that read, “The Best Donuts in the Country.”

The second, not to be outdone, put up a sign that declared, “The World’s Best Donuts.”

The third, noticing a slip in business, decided to put up his own sign. It read, “The Best Donuts on This Block.”

Sometimes the lesser superlative says the most.

©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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