I like to think of myself as a sparkling conversationalist. In fact, I get more brilliant the farther away I get from the actual conversation.
When out to dinner with friends one evening, I noticed I was charged for a drink that was never delivered. “I believe this total is wrong.” I said to the cashier when I went to pay.
“Were you overcharged?” She asked. Before I could answer, another waitress, who had come up to the register to get change, chimed in with a snort, “Of course! You don’t think she’d mention it if the bill was LESS than it was supposed to be, do you?”
As a matter of fact, I’ve done that many times. I try to be scrupulously honest about such things. Thinking quickly, I fired off a scathing reply designed to put the impertinent waitress in her place.
“Well, well” I sputtered “yes! Yes I would…I mean, I do that all the time…it’s just that THIS time…it just so happens I WAS overcharged…but that doesn’t mean I WOULDN’T say something if, you know, it was the other way around, instead. Cuz I SO totally would.”
I had been caught with my mental pants down. Afterwards, I rehashed the conversation out loud in the car and did a slow burn.
“The NERVE of that waitress!” I said indignantly to the car radio, “Implying that I wasn’t honest. What I SHOULD HAVE said was…”
I tried out alternative SHOULD HAVES all the way home.
- Withering sarcasm
- An explanation of my policy of scrupulous honesty
- A lecture on the right way to treat customers if you want them to come back
Although I was eloquently brilliant in each scenario, withering sarcasm was the clear winner. By the time I got home, it was the snarky waitress who had been reduced to a blithering, stuttering idiot, not me. My rapier-like wit had torn her to shreds. Chances are good that, after another week or so, the new version will be the only one I remember.
DID morphed into SHOULD HAVE and back into a whole new version of DID.
It’s not that I’m deliberately lying – my fickle brain, assisted by my fragile ego, tends to remember only those versions of reality that are flattering.
I’m going to have to be more careful in the future, and guard against a tendency to “gild the lily” to make myself look good. At least, that’s what Oprah advised when we were talking about this the other day.