I was going to post more about “my big bird cage,” and I will next time, but one of my gym buddies accosted me today wanting to know when I was going to write about him.
It’s true; last week after a conversation we had concerning what has been a “life changing” event for him, I told him I intended to write about it, and he’s been reading my blog ever since waiting to see what I had to say about the whole thing.
James is a good guy. I really like him. He’s earnest and a genuinely nice fellow, even if he IS from New York City with that typical in-your-face New York City way about him, including that unmistakable NYC accent.
On that note, what is it about guys from NY? Whether Jewish, Irish (like James), or even Black or Hispanic, they ALL sound like Italian mobsters. "Yo!"
Unfortunately for James however, along with the accent also came the NY tendency to use the F word, the primary derivation of choice for Jim being the one with the “ing” at the end. In fact, he inserted it two, three, even four times in every sentence, usually as an adverb or adjective.
As an aside, most words ending in “ing” are verbs, such as running, walking, talking, etc. But the way James would use the word “f***ing in no way resembled a verb. Without conscious thought, he might say for instance, “I f***ing gave that guy a piece of my f***ing mind, and he just f***ing walked the f**k away.”
It isn't just guys from NY though. These days, almost everyone seems to want to use language like this, but in James’ case he took the practice of being a potty mouth “to a whole nuther level.” So, one day in the locker room, when I noticed that he seemed to be using “the word” even more than he usually did, I decided to press him a little bit about it.
“James, no offense, but do you realize how often you use the word f***ing in your normal conversations?”
At my question he seemed a little non-plussed as he considered how to react to it.
Hesitantly, he responded, albeit somewhat carefully, as though he had been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, “No, not really. Is it a lot?”
I laughed, “James, you use it continuously Man. I’m just curious, do you use it so much because of your years in the Navy, or do you think it’s from where you come from? I know a lot of New Yorkers seem to use it even more than most—kind of like the mobsters do in that movie “Good Fellas.”
I could tell I had struck a sore spot with him, and seeing how he hadn’t reacted too badly to my personal observation I pressed in even more, “You know James, I KNOW that you are not a thick-headed man, but I have to tell you, when I hear you talk with all that profanity, you come off as sounding rather unintelligent, as if you are not clever enough to come up with any other word to describe how you are feeling about things OTHER than THAT word.”
Chastened, much to his credit, James looked downright chagrined. He confessed glumly, “Yeah I know. My wife has been giving me hell for years about it.”
I continued, “I doubt if you even hear yourself. It’s so ingrained that you aren’t even aware of it. I’ll never forget the worst case like that I ever saw. It was a fellow Marine watchstander named Mike Campbell, and like you, he was also from someplace in the Northeast. He came into the embassy one evening to call his mom while I was at Post 1. He made the call within earshot from the consular office and I remember being sort of shocked that almost every other word was the F word. After he hung up I asked him if he was sure that he was talking to his mom, and he said, “Yeah, why do you ask?” I told him, “Because you just used the F word like crazy, and I’ve never heard anyone talk to their mother using language like that.” Funny thing is, Mike didn’t believe me. He insisted that he never used it, not once; but he sure as hell did. Evidently, he never heard himself using it, just like you don’t.”
Jim nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah, you’re right. I need to stop. I just did not realize how bad I’ve been doing it until you brought it up.”
“Well, if you want, whenever we talk and I hear you drop an F bomb, I’ll say “boom” and make the Donald Trump gesture in your face like he does when he says, “You’re fired.””
“Okay, you do that. I need to get a handle on this.”
Still curious about the extent of his “problem,” I asked, “You have kids right? Do you talk that way around them?”
“Yep,” he admitted gloomily, “but I told them that they better not talk like that, or else. Plus, I’ve got girls, and I told them that if guys hear a girl talk like that, the impression they get is that the girl “wants something.” It makes them uneasy, but I can tell that they get the point.”
A few days ago I see James in the locker room again. He slips and uses profanity; he looks over at me and asks me why I didn’t remind him that he just dropped an F bomb. I laugh, not really believing that someone like him can ever change his foul speech patterns. It’s just too embedded; basically, I figure that after all these years, it’s who he is.
Flash forward a couple weeks to last Thursday. I see James approaching; he wants to say something so I take off my headset. He asks me if I’ve heard about the guy that died of a heart attack right there in the gym during his workout the other day. We talk off and on for quite a while with him continuing to come over and talk about “stuff.”
Finally, he asks me, “Didn’t you notice? I never once used the F word.”
He was right. Amazingly, not once did he use it; and even as we marveled over that fact, he STILL did not use it.
“How are you managing this? I would have thought it impossible knowing you!”
Proudly he told me, “It was all you Man. The way you brought it up and talked about it without getting all preachy and nasty about it, it made me want to finally do something to stop it.”
I was bowled over. “Really? I did that? Oh my God. Wow! I had THAT much affect on you that you would actually change the way you speak? Dang. I have to admit; that makes me feel pretty darn good.”
I grinned proudly, practically beaming with satisfaction, “Did you tell your wife about the conversation we had that caused you “to see the light?”
“Yup, she knows all about it.”
“Well, I hope you don’t mind, but can I write about this in my blog? I think this is pretty cool.”
James said it was fine with him and wanted to know where he could read my blog. Today, a week later, he reminded me that I said I was going to write about it and still hadn’t.
So, here it is James. This one’s for you, and again, congratulations! And forgive me if I congratulate myself a little as well.