The following occurred a few days ago: I was in my car, watching for a mother and child pass by, preventing me from exiting a parking lot. (Well, they weren’t really preventing me, per se’, but hit-and-run is illegal, and I attempt to be a paragon of defensive driving. But I digress…) The child had a peculiar sway in his walk, his head was tilted, and had quite a vacant look in his eyes. The first thought to me was, “Man, I bet that kid is autistic.” My second thought was, “Wait, what the hell? When did I stop using the word “retarded”?
If there was one advantage Gen Xers had growing up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s over our successors, it was that we were able to use any pejorative, derogatory term we happen to come across. I grew up in an equal opportunity neighborhood, which meant every race, class, and ethnicity got insulted equally. The songs we learned contained language that would make a drill sergeant blush. (No, I will not reproduce them here on this blog. Perhaps if you caught me during hour 3 or 4 of Happy Hour….)
Nowadays, if we want to talk about certain utterances that are supposed to be offensive, e.g.: one of the “Seven words you can’t say on television,” or degrade a particular group of people, we use the phrase, “The word.” I had no qualms when it was a small list. We all had a generally understanding what we were talking about. So phrases such as, “S-word;” “M-F-er;” “C-word;” and “N-word” do not need an explanation. (Thus no hyperlinks will be used here). There is a movement that wants us to treat the word “retarded” as another taboo. (Note how I disagree). Now we have two depreciatory words that begin with the same letter, causing more consternation amongst those who are already upset with the Politically Correct Police.
Today’s topic on the I, Omnibus Feud, top 3 answers on the board: Name a curse word that begins with the letter “F.” The number 1 answer is easy = the synonym of “fornication.” The number 2 answer is not difficult either = the homonym for the British slang word for “cigarette.” (Funny how that word was not edited out of Green Day’s song “Holiday” when it was first released in 2005). The number 3 answer is… “fair.”
In a nutshell, people like to use that word in order to justify their rather shitty behavior and poor decision-making. Here are two stories that explain why I avoid using the word “fair” as if it’s the “other `F-word:’” (1) During my senior year at college, I spent the entire semester raising money for the baseball team, in order to pay for our annual Spring Break trip to Florida. Even though I had earned more than enough to cover my way, I was left off the roster. The coach’s reasoning was that, “it was only fair to give some of the underclassmen the experience, and playing time, regardless of whether or not they raised any money for the team. The coach wanted me to practice on my own during the break. I had another idea. I hadn’t forgiven him, nor had I forgiven the school’s athletic department. To this day, I refuse to donate to the Alumni Fund. It’s a shame, because I really like the new Manager – we were teammates back then. (2) Fast forward to October of 2003. Due to my hard work, and tireless dedication to my job, I was rewarded with two tickets to Game 1 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium. Everyone in the office (which was over 125 employees at that time) knew I was supposed to get the tickets. The morning of that day, (note: this was an afternoon game), I was called into the Branch Manager’s office to talk to the Branch Manager (not a baseball fan) and District Manager (die-hard Yankees fan). This is how they explained it to me: BM, “I didn’t know that you were a Mets fan…” DM, “You see, since you had received playoffs tickets for the Mets…” (mind you that this was back in 1999 and 2000 – three years prior) DM, “We thought it would be fair if these tickets went to a Yankee fan….” Me, “So even if they didn’t earn it by merit…” DM & BM, “Don’t you agree that it’s only fair???” Folks, even though I hadn’t read the book yet, I was thinking along the lines of “Who is John Galt” at this moment. I remained silent, remembering basic negotiation skills 101. Again, they dropped the F-bomb. Finally, I muttered calmly and quietly, “It’s your tickets, and you’re the boss. You can give them to whomever you want.” What came next was the real F-Bomb dropped by the District Manager, heard by the entire office, despite the door being closed. I never got the tickets; the Twins won that afternoon, but I did end up winning. By keeping my dignity, I received sympathy from my co-workers, while the bosses lost the respect and credibility of the entire branch. This must’ve made its way up the grapevine to CHQ (heck, they might have heard the entire tirade 2400 miles away), because within two years, the Branch Manager was sent to Columbus, OH, and the District Manager was demoted, and ultimately let go.