Fanning the flames of criticism, one reader at a time

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Back about 25 years ago, when I started writin’ this column, it was fun gettin’ recognized by people who actually read this junk. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still love it, it’s just that sometimes I’ll run into someone who is not what you would call a real fan. I had one of those encounters the other day.

I was with Janet shoppin’….. Well, let me put that another way. I was forced by Janet to go shoppin’ with her. I hate shoppin’. Anywho, we were in the store and I had gone off tryin’ to find something that might interest me when this lady walked up.

“Excuse me,” she said.

“What did you do?” I smiled and asked.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You said, ‘Excuse me,’ and I asked what you did,” I explained. She just looked at me. It was the sort of look my wife gives me all the time. One of those half-eyelid bored looks.

“I was wondering if you are the man that writes the article in the paper?”

“That’s me,” I smiled figurin’ she was goin’ to tell me she enjoyed my writin’.

“Well, I just want to tell you that I do not think you are funny.”

“Really?” I said. “You know, you and my wife would probably really get along well.”

She looked sort of puzzled. “You mean it doesn’t bother you that I do not care for your writing?”

“Not really,” I said. “There’s a lot of stuff I don’t care about either.”

“Would you like to know why I do not care for it?”

“Not really, but if it’ll make you feel better, let me have it. I can take it. Heck, I can take just about kind of criticism. I’ve been married for 45 years, you know.”

Now, sayin’ somethin’ like that usually gets me at least a little smile, but not this time.

“Well, for starters,” she said, “I do not like the way you leave the ‘g’ off of words ending in ‘i-n-g.’”

“Well,” I said, “my wife doesn’t like it when I leave the commode lid up, but I ain’t changin’ that either.”

She ignored the remark.

“Leaving the ‘g’ off makes you sound ignorant,” she said smugly.

“It may be that I am ignorant,” I said. “Have you ever thought of that?”

“I do not think you are ignorant, I think you purposely go out of your way to make yourself sound ignorant,” she said.

“No,” I said, “I’m pretty sure I’m ignorant.” That got me another look.

“Another thing,” she said, “I do not think a lot of what you write is true.”

“Really?”

“No, I don’t,” she stated. I just smiled.

“Well,” she said, “aren’t you going to comment?”

“About what?” I asked.

“About what?” she repeated. “I just accused you of being a liar. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“You’re not the first person to accuse me of that, and probably won’t be the last. Plus, what I think is true and what you think is true, may be different.”

“How can you say that?” True is true.”

“That is true,” I said.

“What?”

“I was agreein’ with you.”

“Hmmp,” she said. “Has anyone ever told you that you are exasperating?”

“You mean the way my jeans fit me in the back?”

“What? No! Don’t you know what exasperating means?”

“Not really, but it sounds kind of dirty.”

“You are impossible, do you know that?”

“Lady, my wife has told me that so many times I’ve lost count.”

“Your wife must be a Saint.”

“No, she’s a Cowboy fan, although she did root for the Saints awhile back when they went to the Super Bowl.” She gave me another look.

“Do you go out of your way to tick people off?” she asked.

“No, it’s a gift,” I replied, and then smiled.

“Why are you grinning like an idiot?” she growled.

“It may be that I am an idiot,” I smiled.

“AHHHHHH!” she hollered and then tried to compose herself.

“Now, may I ask you a question?” I asked.

She sighed really big.

“OK,” she said.

“Why do you read that junk I write if it upsets you so? You don’t have to read it, you know.”

She got a funny look on her face like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

“I have to read it,” she said.

“You have to read it? Why?”

“I do not know,” she growled. “I just have to read it to see what stupid things you say you’ve done.”

“You need help, Lady,” I said.

“I know,” she sighed. “I know,” and she walked off.

About that time Janet walked up.

“I thought I heard a woman holler,” she said. “I figured I’d better come and see what you had gotten into.”

“It was a fan,” I said.

“You have a fan?”

“Yeah. She said she just couldn’t stop readin’ my junk.”

“Really,” she said suspiciously. “Then why did she holler?”

“What can I say? I guess I just have that affect on women.”

“Tell me about it,” she sighed.

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