IN SOME CIRCLES, that person would be called hypocritical or two-faced, and yes – even disingenuous. (Hey, look that one up in your Funk and Wagnall’s!) Think about it. How can a person say one thing aloud, while silently thinking its polar opposite?
Well, first I’d say that it’s a pretty talented person who can do two things simultaneously, without getting confused. So my first impulse is to congratulate a duplicitous thinker-speaker, especially considering how closely our brains and our mouths are connected. Think it/say it – that’s the modus operandi for most folks.
So I call it a fine art and one to be admired – the art of thinking one thing, but saying something completely different. And I must admit, I’m kinda patting myself on the back, here. (Good job, Mary!) For I’ve been a lifelong devotee of double speak.
Let me illustrate.
You stagger out of the grocery store, clutching four bags loaded down with food. You look both ways, then step into the white grid that’s painted on the asphalt in front of you, and wham! A gray Toyota van speeds right past you, inches from your body, then careens left and races down a row of parked cars. Your hair fluffs up in the breeze, and you check your toes to make sure they’re still intact.
You’re instantly incensed. But you don’t sound like it.
“Why thank you!” you smile between clenched teeth. “I didn’t need that right-of-way!” But deep inside you’re thinking, “You idiot! Are you trying to kill me? Where’s a rocket launcher when I need one?!”
Or consider another scenario: You’re standing in the “Merchandise Return” line behind a white-haired elderly lady who smiles vaguely at you, then peers over your shoulder and scans the department store behind your back. She holds nothing in her hands and she’s not even looking at the line of people behind her. You’re just about to her ask if she’s lost, when a thirty-something Dudess in jeans and a tank top pushes her way behind the lady and shouts, “Excuse me!” then promptly takes her place in line. In front of the elderly lady. Who is in front of you.
So you ask the elderly lady, who reminds you of your granny, “Excuse me. Are you in line?”
“Oh! Sorry, no!” She flashes a smile, turns on her heel, and strides off toward the Kitchen Department. For a second you marvel at how fast she’s moving, which is much more rapidly than you thought she could. Then you close up the empty space between you and the Dudess, and you find yourself standing right behind the pushy broad. The one who cut in line. You study her tanned shoulders, pony tail, and firm arms for a few seconds, while inside you’re thinking: “What’s up with her? Why is she in front of me?”
You wrestle with your conscience for a minute, trying to make a quality decision to be nice, but soon you can’t help yourself. You tap her on the shoulder and you say (every so sweetly), “Excuse me, I was wondering something.” She looks at your nose and waits, a vacant look on her face. “Why did you cut in front of that lady?”
“She wasn’t standing in the line.”
“Really? It sure looked like it to me. And that’s why I was waiting in line behind her.”
Dudess checks back to see if it’s her turn yet, then gives you her vacant look again. The perfect poker face.
Inside you’re thinking, “This is where you apologize, rude little girl. It’s called manners.” But instead, you say, “Maybe you didn’t realize it, but you also cut in front of me.”
“No, I didn’t realize it,” she says, then turns around and studies the two clerks at the cash registers.
“Next time, maybe you could ask?” you smile at her back, your face belying your innermost thoughts. Because suddenly, you hate yourself for being such a pushover. “Wouldn’t you like to apologize?” you hear your inner voice correcting her, with the strained patience of a parent training a two-year-old. “Shouldn’t you offer to let me go ahead of you?” you cajole. But in reality, you say nothing.
Then you watch her step up to a clerk, pull a pair of pink pajamas out of the bag she is carrying, and place them on the counter.
“Have a nice day!” you holler, a little louder than you intended. But inside you’re actually screaming, “What on earth is the matter with you!? What makes you think you can cut in line and get away with it, you jerk!” And then you hear, ever so clearly, her answer, just as if you were reading her mind –
“I don’t think, honey. I know! Cuz I just did get away with it. Ha ha ha!”
And then you realize that you have been played, and by a real pro. So you think to yourself as you’re stepping up to the other clerk at the other cash register, “Okay. This alley cat just outmaneuvered me. That’s once! But next time, I will not let an ignoramus off the hook. I will keep on asking questions, and I will keep on making polite suggestions, until finally – I will force the fool to have some dadburn manners!”
And suddenly, you begin to sound like Tyler Perry. (And you like it!)
Because somewhere, some day, there’s got to be a place where the inner voice and the outer voice converge. And me? I’m gonna be right there when it happens, and I’m gonna love every minute of it.