A simple misunderstanding 

After a day fill

After a day filled with the typical slings and arrows of outrageous employment, I walked into a liquor store with the only money in my wallet destined for a cold six-pack. On the way in, I noticed the same woman standing outside the store who had, on an earlier visit, said I looked like Steve Martin. "Hey look, it"s Steve Martin! You look like Steve Martin!" She was referring to my once-upon-a-time-yet-alas-no-longer prematurely gray hair. At least that"s my guess. I certainly wasn"t acting like a wild and crazy guy at the time. But now it was weeks later. She seemed to remember me, yet couldn"t quite place the face. "Steve Martin Ö remember?" I offered her memory a friendly nudge as I entered the store. A few minutes later, as I exited, she approached me like we were old friends. "Hey, gimmeadolla so I kin git me a poe-tay-toe over at Wendy"s!" I"m fairly used to folks hitting me up for money. I smiled, and then told her that she probably wouldn"t believe it but I spent my last five bucks on this here six-pack. I was right. She didn"t believe me. "All I needs is a dolla. Gimmeadolla." "Honestly, I don"t have a dollar." "C"mon Ö Gimmeadolla." By now I was getting into my car. My persistent potato pursuing friend had followed me. I then had what I thought was a bright idea. A compromise, perhaps. "Here, I have some change." It was only about 60 cents, but I figured the next person she asked would round out the dollar and she"d get her potato. She looked at the change in my hand like it was something foul and filthy. "I know you gottadolla. Gimmeadolla!" "I don"t have a dollar. I told you. Here, just take the change Ö" And then I said something that seemed so appropriate at the time. Such a simple, harmless clichÈ Ö or so I thought. "Come on, beggars can"t be choosers Ö" I honestly didn"t recognize the gravity of my error. "Who you callin" a beggar?" She backed away from the car, crossed her arms and cocked her head. My unintentional insult apparently inspired her to cop a mean attitude. "My momma never raised no BEGGAR! I was just axin" you fo" a dolla! Who the fuck you callin" a BEGGAR!?!" Rather than being frightened, I developed my own attitude. I was aggravated with the growing ugliness of the scene. Why had I engaged in conversation with this stranger and gotten myself into this stupid situation? And I could not even begin to comprehend her unique logic. So I questioned her. "So let me get this straight Ö standing outside a liquor store, hittin" folks up for money. That"s not begging, it"s just asking people for money. Have I got that right now?" She didn"t care for my smart-ass attitude. She stared, blinking in disbelief. She soon regained her composure, however Ö "Fuck you! Fuck you, you motherfucker!" I guess we weren"t friends anymore. Still, for some reason I can"t begin to defend, I couldn"t resist a playful little jab back at her growing anger. "Not without dinner and dancing Ö" "What da fuck did you say?" Her head was cocked. Her hands were now on her hips, like we were getting ready to face off at the OK Corral. And her eyes were poison daggers. She was all Grade A Whoop Ass Attitude. But I didn"t care. "I said, you can"t fuck me unless you buy me dinner and then take me out dancing." For a brief, tense moment, she was absolutely speechless. I don"t think she could believe that Steve Martin could be such a wise ass. Then the expletives exploded from her mouth. She peppered me with curse word shrapnel. "Fuck you!" this and "Motherfucker!" that. She had given up on the idea of getting a dollar from me, and she was still cussing me as I drove off. I know there"s a moral somewhere in this episode. There are also lots of those nasty little "what ifs" to ponder. What if I hadn"t jogged her memory and just kept my mouth shut and got my beer? What if she had just accepted my change? What if I weren"t such a smart ass? We can muse and ponder and armchair quarterback the situation ad nauseam. For me, what it really boils down to is a lesson in how we react to misunderstandings. Clearly, Ms. Potato Lady and I didn"t agree on what behaviors constitute "begging." Strip away all the cussing and smart-assed retorts and what you"ll find is a rather simple misunderstanding between two individuals with what I am guessing are very different backgrounds. So what happens in such a situation? Even a simple misunderstanding often isn"t initially recognized as a misunderstanding at all. In fact, the very nature of a misunderstanding dictates that we probably won"t react to the situation with understanding, right? So how do we react? With anger? Violence? Cussing that would make a sailor blush? Smart-assed remarks? How often, throughout the ages, have we truly agreed to disagree? When you find yourself knee deep in the muck of misunderstanding, what emotions rush in to fill the void left by not having a common thread of understanding to bind us together? It"s a scary place. Ground zero for countless wars, murders, lynchings and holocausts. If only we could develop an awareness that understands the moment we tumble headlong into misunderstanding. Like those precious times when you suddenly realize that you are dreaming and stop to look around. How different would the world be then?

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Michael Atwood

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