Sometimes, Tink — usually in a gentle way but a bit abrupt at other times — will tell me I’m taking too long to explain something. This never happens when he has time to enjoy a long story but when he’s in a rush with much to do.
“Can you give me the Yankee version of this story? I don’t have time for the Southern telling.” I always think my stories are worth an investment of time and Tink does normally but not always.
I’ll make a face at him. “Yes, I can but it will be your loss because it’s actually an interesting story.”
The Southern version always includes who’s kin to who, who killed who, who almost killed who, and then, usually, I veer off into a personal recollection of one of the minor characters. Perhaps I should tell you that Tink’s patience is tried when I am telling this kind of story over something simple such as how the kale wasn’t fresh at one grocery and how I had to tell the produce manager, whom I’ve known for 20 years, then I went to another store where kale wasn’t any fresher but was double the price. I included the history of the grocery store and the cost of milk.
Tink took a deep breath. “Did you get the kale?”
I don’t believe in “a few words” when “a lot of words” cost the same: free. Since I’m Scotch-Irish and like to get my money’s worth, why wouldn’t I want to use more than less?
Recently, quite by accident, I discovered that economy of words can be quite effective, though. I had flown to New York to take care of a piece of family business for Tink. On the flight up, I picked up a germ which started a sinus infection. By the return flight a few days later, I had lost my voice. There was a drunk redneck on the plane. I’m talking out-of-the-backwoods wearing a John Deere hat and a Lynyrd Skynyrd black T-shirt. We were on a small jet leaving from an airport in an affluent area of New York so he stuck out as much as the dirt track drivers I once encountered in the lobby of the The Wilshire Hotel (location of Pretty Woman) in Los Angeles. They had key chains hanging from their pockets and were sipping alcohol from plastic cups with little umbrellas.
He was sitting behind me on the opposite side, slumping over and slurring words he used loudly. Halfway through the trip, I got up, passed his seat, and went to the one tiny bathroom. In seconds, someone was there, jerking the door, and pulling with great might and clatter, making all amounts of noise until I opened the door.
The drunk in the Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt. “Oh ma’am! I’m sorry! I didn’t know nobody was in there.” My first thought was “That didn’t occur to you when the door was locked and the lighted sign said “Occupied”? But because I had no voice, I said nothing. I waved it away his words and shook my head then squeezed by him in the aisle. When the plane landed, I thought, “Good. I can get away from him.”
I took my time deplaning then headed to the tram for baggage claim. There were five cars on the tram and wouldn’t you know that I picked the one with the same drunk on it? He began his blubbering apology again. The only thing worse than a crying drunk is a sorry drunk. And I don’t mean that in the Southern way of being “sorry-no-account.” I mean one who is apologizing.
But since I couldn’t speak. It was easily handled. Again, I waved away his apology and, unsmiling, shook my head. He retreated and acted wounded. Put in his place.
Tink is right. Sometimes no words are better.
Ronda Rich, author of “What Southern Women Know,” writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.