Isn't it interesting how some people just love to have the last word?
Take this woman who works at the check out counter of the deli where I pick up lunch from everyday. A standard conversation with her goes like this:
Check-out counter woman (CCW): "Here's your receipt. Thank you."
CCW: "You're welcome. You have a nice day."
F: "Ya, you too"
CCW: "Thank you. You take care now."
F: *restraining urge to say "You too" again*: "Uh-huh"
One of these days I swear I'm just going to keep answering her back. We'll probably stand around for hours exchanging pleasantries (shifting gradually from "You have a nice day" to "You have a nice night") while an endless queue of customers lines up behind us. I'm just curious to see how long she can keep it up, how many meaningless platitudes she can come up with. It should be fun.
More generally, of course, this whole last word business is one of the trickiest problems in human discourse. It's always hard to draw that line, isn't it - to know at what point to say "this person is just not going to get it, I've said everything I wanted to say and I think it's clear enough, I'm just not going to waste my time on this anymore". It's not so much that you want to win - it's more that you worry that the other person will think that he or she has won, that he or she has managed to convince you. That despite your best attempts they will continue to believe what it suits them to believe, never mind logic.
Not, of course, that all last-word one-upmanship is combative. The last word problem is true even of friendly / affectionate interaction. The "I shall say goodnight till it be morrow" problem. The 'waving-goodbye-who's-going-to-turn-away-first' problem. The 'he/she paid me a compliment now I have to pay him / her one' problem.
Somewhere out there, I'm convinced, there's a parallel universe where people have never learnt to break off contact. All through this alternate world, people are locked in endless cycles of praise or disagreement. Havesham-like bridesmaids are standing outside churches complimenting each other on their hairstyles and clothes, even as their dresses turn to tatters, and ivy starts to climb up their feet. Political leaders are planning counterstrikes to avenge strikes by other policitical leaders who were only trying to avenge strikes by the original political leaders, etc. (Fortunately, none of these strikes are actually doing any damage, because all the soldiers on either side are too busy saluting each other to actually fight). Love-struck couples are still staring deeply into each other's eyes and whispering "I love you", except that by this point it's more like they're screaming it in exasperation and occassionally hitting each other over the head with a blunt object to drive home the point. Proud parents are desperately thinking up stories to prove that their stupid tykes are smarter, cuter and more well-behaved than their neighbour's little tykes. Said little tykes are meanwhile beating each other up screaming "you started it!" "No, you started it!". The only people who are not going endlessly back and forth are the ping-pong players, who finished their game 29 years ago and are still waiting for someone to come along and give them their medals.
Sometimes I'm not even sure that's a parallel universe.
Categories: Humour, Life