Criminal

Criminal: (n) a person guilty or convicted of a crime

If my recollection holds any accuracy of memory, I believe it happened right after my twenty-eighth birthday. I was in a room with a bunch of friends—and some strangers—and a question was posed.

“What was your first job?”

Well, I let three or four people go before me so that I could understand if I was on point, what the question really meant and the best way to answer it.

After the fourth teller finished his story about being a bag boy at a grocery store, I raised my hand and explained, “The summer between my junior and senior year, I joined some sort of national work program for teenagers sponsored by the government, which offered opportunities for local jobs at minimum wage. After volunteering, I discovered that the possibility afforded to me was working at the cemetery, cutting the grass and taking care of the gravestones.

“I was torn between being grossed out and wondering whether anything could be any more boring. But the only other thing available was with a farmer, bailing hay. I did not like hay. I didn’t like heat. I didn’t favor sweating and knew the farmer would be there the whole time, and I’d have to really work hard. I thought that the keeper of the graves might actually trust me to do the job without peeking over my shoulder.”

“I was right. Matter of fact, after about four or five days, I discovered he never showed up to confirm my work. So I started coming to the graveyard, signing in, and then leaving. I was able to continue this practice for about two weeks, collecting my check—until I finally got caught.”

At this point I stopped speaking, thinking I was going to get some laughter and maybe even a round of applause for my tale. But instead, a young woman sitting across the room gasped and said:

“Geez…that was criminal.”

Looking into all the faces around me, I waited for someone to speak up and offer at least some support for my ingenuity.

No one did.

I was angry.

Although I did not stomp out of the room, I made my exit from the party as quickly as possible without drawing attention to my frustration.

I fumed. How dare anyone accuse me of being a criminal? I knew what a criminal was. It’s someone who commits crimes, right? An individual who breaks the law and is tracked down by the police and thrown in jail, to stay there until they learn their lesson or complete their sentence.

Then a horrible thing happened.

My conscience showed up.

For some reason, my conscience was in a mood to talk, in a most accusing way.

Mr. Conscience reminded me that three years ago, I had skipped out on rent that was due.

He also brought up the fact that I copped some money from a drawer when I was at a friend’s house.

There were four or five examples that my goddamned nosy conscience decided to dredge up. Each one could be individually explained away—and had been, by my glib nature.

But collectively, they showcased an individual who felt he was superior to everybody else—certainly high and lifted above the rules—and therefore could do what he wanted.

The conclusion was simple. I was a criminal because I committed a crime by breaking the law, which was really a rule set by those who have the uncomfortable job of trying to make things run smoothly by seeking common ground among diverse people.

I was thoroughly ashamed.

Since that day I have not lived a faultless life, but I’ve never been a criminal again. Because even though I don’t always agree, I always know that agreeable is necessary.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

 


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Crew Cut

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crew cut: (n) a haircut in which the hair is very closely cropped.

It was a simple time.

People were determined to keep it that way, even though freedom, complexity and disruption were on the horizon, threatening to alter the beige tint of society with a flash of paisley.

In that brief moment, I lived and breathed and had my childhood.

One of the common things that was completely understood in my small town was the issue of men’s hair.

There were only three choices.

Some very bold youngsters started growing their hair to where it flirted with touching the top of the earlobe. They were subject to ridicule and made a grower of such a frock worthy of mock. They were deemed “hippies” and were considered part of the counterculture threatening to make America diverse.

The second type of hairdo was referred to as “the regular.”

This was where the young man was to get his hair cut as far away from his ears and collar as possible, leaving atop a tiny patch resembling crab grass. Even though it was not hippie, those who sported the regular haircut were suspicious. They were possibly Democrats or homos, which in our village, were both abominable.

Although it was never stated out loud, the only truly acceptable haircut for anyone under the age of eighteen was the crew cut. Matter of fact, if you peruse old rock and roll albums, many of the singers still sported it. It was the same kind of head shaving you would get if you went into the military. It was uniform, with a tiny berm of hair in the front, greased down so as not to become flyaway.

You knew this—whenever you encountered a person with a crew cut, you were staring into the face of a true American who loved God, hated sin and was determined to keep America whatever America was at that particular moment.

At one time I considered getting a crew cut.

However, my face was so chubby I was afraid my cheeks would puff out and I would be caught up in a wind gust and carried away. So I maintained my regular haircut until my senior year in high school, when I began to grow hair on the sides of my head that was long enough to be combed down to cover the tips of my ears when I was away from adults, and combed back to barely pass muster in grown-up world.

It was a foolish time in this country.

A dangerous assertion persisted–that human beings could be stopped and immobilized, avoiding a hairy situation.

 


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