Nevertheless, I've never said it. I can't. In my head, I hear the voice of a much older man, and it doesn't matter how old I get, I will never be as old as that man in my head -- the one who has the right to say such things. The one with thick glasses and shaggy gray hair. The one who wears those sweaters that zip up the front. The one who's fought in some wars and has an ailment that acts up when it rains.
I can't end any sentence with "ma'am." Sorry, just can't. That one doesn't make me feel like a crotchety old man so much as a military officer or cowboy. Some other kind of full-grown man who is not me. And here's the odd thing: I can totally do "sir." "Sir" just sounds like you had a slight stroke and that's the way you pronounce "Mr." now. But "ma'am"? When I hear the word "ma'am," for whatever reason, I picture Ms. Lockhorn from the old newspaper comic strip.
I know it's meant to be a sign of respect, but "ma'am" sounds like nonsense talk for a woman devoid of sexual lubrication. For a woman so lumpy that it would take you five tries to find her breasts in a sweater. It's just a gross-sounding word for a decrepit woman, and I don't think I'll be able to bring myself to say it, until I'm equally old. So like another three weeks. Four, tops.
My mind is filled with countless half-remembered black-and-white examples where some big swinging cock businessman pays for his drink or hotel room or poolside sandwich and says, "Keep the change."
"Gee, thanks, mister!" says the bartender/concierge/poolboy, looking down into his hand in disbelief, like Jesus just took a gold-plated dump in it. (Wait. Does Jesus poop? I'm not sure. I'm more of an Old Testament guy ... )
WWJD? I'm not ... sure?
In any event, I was positive I'd be doling money out like this when I was a grownup. Spreading joy with three simple words. Except it never worked out that way.
First off, there's a technical reason. A mathematical reason. Most of the time, the change I get is small. If a waitress brings me a turkey club sandwich and a Coke for $9.25 and I pay with a ten and say "Keep the change," I might as well say, "Hey, choke on the shitty tip, lady" instead. But even when it works out and makes sense, I still have a problem. Let's say I take a cab 20 blocks and the fare is like four bucks. Then yes, in that situation I might give a five and say "Keep the change." And I've actually done it. And felt like an ass every single time. Because each of those times, I felt like there was an unspoken parenthetical following: (I'm pretty cool, huh? Letting you keep the change like that. That's right. I'm DA MAN!) So these days, I kinda just drop the five and leave. Like a grownup. Because I have problems. With words.
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