Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Last Word

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."

Falstaff: "Thanks"

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"

CCW: "Goodbye!"

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: ,

11 comments:

Arnold said...

You're good, man! Really good... And I used to think I was funny... *shakes head*

Patrix said...

True. Somehow I always have to resist having the last word in an email exchange and when I don't, I worry about if I should write back, just in case. Yeah! I can be that weird on some days.

MockTurtle said...

Not really off-topic since we are talking about getting in the last word - check the comments section on your previous post for my final say in the matter.

dazedandconfused said...

oh, I let people have the last word all the time, I just give them my last look- contempt, derision, pity, resignation, you name it. Lips and eyebrows, and a slight shake of the head, easy does it!

ozymandiaz said...

So what exactly is the psychology behind the need for the last word? I find it a bit curious. I realize it is and ego thing but how exactly. Oh, and try guttural sounds instead of the last word. Ya know, grunt or something and see how they respond.

-Mahjabeen said...

Its all about the last wave- once you start walking away- nothing comes after the raised hand with you halfway out....

Falstaff said...

arnold: Thanks

Patrix: Ya, same here. It's no so much that I want to have the last word. It's more that I worry that the other person may feel I'm snubbing them by not replying.

d&c: hmmm...good point. But wee bit difficult to do over the Internet no?

oz: I think the psychology is two-fold. For arguments, it's what I said in my post - you worry that silence may be seen as assent, as capitulation. There's an urge to make it clear that you don't agree. That's even more true, I think, when the argument is public - you may have given up on trying to convince the person you're actually arguing with, but you keep going because you worry about what the audience may see it as an admission of defeat if you're the first one to break off.

With more friendly exchanges, I think the pathology is more the worry that the other person may feel snubbed. It's the 'what will she think if she says "I love you" and I don't say it back?' logic (not thinking about this has actually got me into trouble, believe it or not). Of course, logically, that balance issue can be fixed if the person who initiated the exchange doesn't respond the last time (so it's 1-2-1-2), but that kind of coordination is often difficult in practise.

mahjabeen: ah, yes, the last wave.

Anonymous said...

credit debt counseling, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/]credit debt counseling[/url]|
tooth whitening, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tooth-whitening.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tooth-whitening.html]tooth whitening[/url]|
tropicana hotel, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tropicana-hotel.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tropicana-hotel.html]tropicana hotel[/url]|
football gambling, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/football-gambling.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/football-gambling.html]football gambling[/url]|
culinary college, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-college.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-college.html]culinary college[/url]|
card credit debt help self uk, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/card-credit-debt-help-self-uk.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/card-credit-debt-help-self-uk.html]card credit debt help self uk[/url]|
uk home loan house refinance mortgage rates, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/uk-home-loan-house-refinance-mortgage-rates.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/uk-home-loan-house-refinance-mortgage-rates.html]uk home loan house refinance mortgage rates[/url]|
mortgage bridge loan, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/mortgage-bridge-loan.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/mortgage-bridge-loan.html]mortgage bridge loan[/url]|
distance learning mba, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/distance-learning-mba.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/distance-learning-mba.html]distance learning mba[/url]|
college student loan consolidation, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/college-student-loan-consolidation.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/college-student-loan-consolidation.html]college student loan consolidation[/url]|
debt consolidation leads, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/debt-consolidation-leads.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/debt-consolidation-leads.html]debt consolidation leads[/url]|
play roulette, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/play-roulette.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/play-roulette.html]play roulette[/url]|
travelers auto insurance, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/travelers-auto-insurance.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/travelers-auto-insurance.html]travelers auto insurance[/url]|
culinary education, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-education.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-education.html]culinary education[/url]|
equifax credit report, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/equifax-credit-report.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/equifax-credit-report.html]equifax credit report[/url]|
small business loan bad credit, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/small-business-loan-bad-credit.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/small-business-loan-bad-credit.html]small business loan bad credit[/url]|

Anonymous said...

credit debt counseling, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/]credit debt counseling[/url]|
tooth whitening, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tooth-whitening.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tooth-whitening.html]tooth whitening[/url]|
tropicana hotel, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tropicana-hotel.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tropicana-hotel.html]tropicana hotel[/url]|
football gambling, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/football-gambling.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/football-gambling.html]football gambling[/url]|
culinary college, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-college.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-college.html]culinary college[/url]|
card credit debt help self uk, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/card-credit-debt-help-self-uk.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/card-credit-debt-help-self-uk.html]card credit debt help self uk[/url]|
uk home loan house refinance mortgage rates, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/uk-home-loan-house-refinance-mortgage-rates.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/uk-home-loan-house-refinance-mortgage-rates.html]uk home loan house refinance mortgage rates[/url]|
mortgage bridge loan, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/mortgage-bridge-loan.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/mortgage-bridge-loan.html]mortgage bridge loan[/url]|
distance learning mba, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/distance-learning-mba.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/distance-learning-mba.html]distance learning mba[/url]|
college student loan consolidation, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/college-student-loan-consolidation.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/college-student-loan-consolidation.html]college student loan consolidation[/url]|
debt consolidation leads, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/debt-consolidation-leads.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/debt-consolidation-leads.html]debt consolidation leads[/url]|
play roulette, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/play-roulette.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/play-roulette.html]play roulette[/url]|
travelers auto insurance, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/travelers-auto-insurance.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/travelers-auto-insurance.html]travelers auto insurance[/url]|
culinary education, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-education.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-education.html]culinary education[/url]|
equifax credit report, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/equifax-credit-report.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/equifax-credit-report.html]equifax credit report[/url]|
small business loan bad credit, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/small-business-loan-bad-credit.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/small-business-loan-bad-credit.html]small business loan bad credit[/url]|

Anonymous said...

credit debt counseling, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/]credit debt counseling[/url]|
tooth whitening, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tooth-whitening.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tooth-whitening.html]tooth whitening[/url]|
tropicana hotel, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tropicana-hotel.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/tropicana-hotel.html]tropicana hotel[/url]|
football gambling, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/football-gambling.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/football-gambling.html]football gambling[/url]|
culinary college, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-college.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-college.html]culinary college[/url]|
card credit debt help self uk, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/card-credit-debt-help-self-uk.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/card-credit-debt-help-self-uk.html]card credit debt help self uk[/url]|
uk home loan house refinance mortgage rates, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/uk-home-loan-house-refinance-mortgage-rates.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/uk-home-loan-house-refinance-mortgage-rates.html]uk home loan house refinance mortgage rates[/url]|
mortgage bridge loan, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/mortgage-bridge-loan.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/mortgage-bridge-loan.html]mortgage bridge loan[/url]|
distance learning mba, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/distance-learning-mba.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/distance-learning-mba.html]distance learning mba[/url]|
college student loan consolidation, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/college-student-loan-consolidation.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/college-student-loan-consolidation.html]college student loan consolidation[/url]|
debt consolidation leads, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/debt-consolidation-leads.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/debt-consolidation-leads.html]debt consolidation leads[/url]|
play roulette, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/play-roulette.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/play-roulette.html]play roulette[/url]|
travelers auto insurance, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/travelers-auto-insurance.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/travelers-auto-insurance.html]travelers auto insurance[/url]|
culinary education, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-education.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/culinary-education.html]culinary education[/url]|
equifax credit report, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/equifax-credit-report.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/equifax-credit-report.html]equifax credit report[/url]|
small business loan bad credit, http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/small-business-loan-bad-credit.html, [url=http://flsr.byu.edu/pictures/temp3/small-business-loan-bad-credit.html]small business loan bad credit[/url]|

Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. http://www.supplements-diet-0.info/Paterson-facial-plastic-surgery.html sony clie handheld model peg-sj33u Men &aposs skin care problems with resperate high blood pressure system Sr bontril 1990 buick century engine rod repair Hot upskirts free Lamar university online classes Diecast mad max car models Protonix and nightmares Albany business college albany ny Lesbians eating cunts Alberta canada search last name bond evista 2bside 2beffect http://www.telephone-headset.info/clean-and-easy-skin-care-products.html Ccm body kits