Friday, October 06, 2006

Revenge Fantasy for a Friday

While I generally do think that democracy is the greatest form of government, every once in a while I think of that vocabulary word from long ago, the one I don't remember and am too lazy busy to look up, the vocabulary word that describes a form of government that is run by a small group of smart people who tell everybody else what to do.

(Naturally, this would only work for me if I were one of the small group of smart people.)

A few years back, I was a law student who missed my English-major roots and wanted to do a little pleasure reading. I found a copy of some classic and notoriously-difficult piece of literature at a used bookstore. It wasn't Ulysses, but it was something like it, so for the sake of the story, we'll maintain the fiction that it was Ulysses. My memory is shot right now due to lack of nourishment--after choking on a horse-pill-sized vitamin, I puked up all of last night's dinner, and then, some time later, I inhaled some irritating particle and had a coughing fit that resulted in my also puking up my subsequent dessert. On the bright side, I didn't have to get up to pee EVEN ONCE during the night, as I had already surrendered all my liquids.

So, anyway, I had procured a copy of Fake Ulysses, and I sought some help with getting through it.

Enter my old pal, Cliff.

Just so we're clear, I have never, ever, ever, not even once in my life, relied on Cliff Notes instead of actually reading an assigned book. Books were the assignments I most enjoyed throughout my entire academic career. However, there were many, many moments when the realization set in that I had read the same paragraph at least 15 times in a row, and I knew that it was important, and critical, and that we would be discussing it the next day in class, and, due to lack of sleep, an excess of work in other subjects, general teenage angst, and not actually being a person who was living in the 1780's and was totally down with the lingo, I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the hell the author was talking about. That's where Cliff came in. A quick consultation with him, and I would be able to develop some rough idea of the bizarre metaphor in which the author was indulging. I'd also find Cliff useful when one work referenced a previous classic work that I hadn't read and didn't have time to read at that moment, yet wanted a base knowledge of in order to develop my understanding of the referencing work.

So, even as a teenager, my opinion of Cliff was very clear, and I always likened adults who hated him and wanted to ban him to the kinds of people who wanted to ban drugs with proven medical benefits to many because some chose to abuse them.

Fast-forward back (is that an oxymoron?) to my law school days and Fake Ulysses. I entered a regular chain bookstore, found my Cliff companion, and waited on line to pay. The woman at the register was maybe five or ten years older than me. Maybe. When it was my turn, I handed over my little yellow-and-black friend, and her canned smile turned to a scowl.

"Are you buying this so that you don't have to read the book???"

I stopped taking shit sometime in 2005, so if this were to happen now, I would say something like, "I graduated with a degree in English from Prestigious College, and they gave me one of those little gold keys when I graduated. Now, I am pursuing an advanced degree in a different field and am making this purchase to enrich my reading of this classic in my limited spare time. None of this was accomplished by shirking my work, like you are doing right now by trying to engage me in conversation instead of ringing up my purchase. Now, kindly check me out so that you can get back to a busy day of gossiping with your friends and pushing the membership card." Naturally, what I said at the time was, "No."

If my fellow smart people, however, were running the show, she would have had to appear before us to justify her rudeness. We could have given her a taste of her own medicine, and accused her of all kinds of behaviors on the basis of no evidence. And then we could lock her in a room with a copy of Silas Marner, and no yellow-and-black assistance other than a buzzing bee.

11 Comments:

Blogger Mignon said...

Okay, this is completely irrelevant to the point of your post, but I bet if you'd been ugly and studious looking she wouldn't have given you shit. I think attractive well-put-together people are often assumed to be dumb and lazy. Especially by unattractive, intelligent people that are working minimum-wage jobs.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

She was probably just trying to bring you down to her level. The level of a woman who needed Cliff Notes to read "Curious George". That's all I'm sayin'.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Oh, how annoying!!! I had a meeting this morning with someone like that. But I love your imagined response. Isn't that how is goes?

PS: I can't remember the names of things A LOT lately, and I'm not even pregnant! Uh-oh.

PPS: I loved Mignon's comment.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous c.s. said...

i had trouble thinking of the word too. but since i'm too fed up with the yankees' performance to concentrate on the game, i did the legwork for you:

aristocracy

was it pale fire? i don't recall whether that book is actually complex, but it jumped into mind when i read your post.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Do they have Cliff's Notes for pregnancy? That would be really helpful.
Sorry about the puking.

10:53 AM  
Blogger ptg said...

When I was in school, I was so lazy I thought reading Cliff's Notes was too much effort. Thank goodness for Classics Illustrated.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

I wonder what she would have said if you'd said "yes." Not sell it to you? She probably thought being around all those books made her smart... through osmosis.

I wish there were cliff notes for life in general. :)

4:13 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Cliff's Notes for Pregnancy...Teebs may have something there.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Cliff's Notes for pregnancy = good friends and family that have kids.

6:54 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

Waiat, wait--is it really aristocracy? Oligarchy is the word that comes to mind, though it may be ALL WRONG.

11:48 AM  
Blogger ptg said...

Timocracy, perhaps?

2:50 PM  

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