W. DEREK RUSSELL: The literal thinking of a child


I’m not one to let obscenities fly, but after watching the Dennis Quaid-tirade, where the actor berated someone on set for walking on too early while he was giving a line, it made me think about the pure nature of certain words and how they leave us feeling. I hope, especially around children, people go for the innocuous “shoot” or “darn.”

I hit my head on the door the other day and screamed “Lansing, Michigan” in front of my daughter. To me, those are the funnier things, the ones unsaid. I generally won’t laugh when I hear someone curse, but if you bleep someone cussing, I will automatically laugh. Just because I think that noise is hilarious. Someone trying to cover up an obscenity with something incredibly innocent and cavalier is especially hilarious to me. You can do a lot of fun things with “son of.” Son of Jor-El. Son of a batch of cookies. Son of a motherless goat. My point is, that quote from the Dowager Countess of “Downton Abbey” that I used as the title of this column, is an amazingly true point. Vulgarity is, indeed, no substitute for wit.

I’d almost forgotten about the quote. I attended a “Downton Abbey” birthday party for my friend Lisa this past weekend. Everyone was dressed in their finest for the affair, while I had my pieced-together suit from the old Black’s department store downtown. I never want to dress up too much, people might start expecting it from me and I can’t have that. We dined under the stars amongst friends, and it was a good time, as if it really were 1924. Place settings were laid out for us all, mine saying “Lord Derek.” Which met with the social media mockery that it should have said “Lord, Derek.” My friends know me well. Next to my plate was a silhouette cutout of the Dowager, with her quote emblazoned across it. And I suddenly remembered the hilarity of it. It’s true in a lot of aspects of life. Laughing is just more fun than the alternative. But not always easier.

Last month, I did something I haven’t done in nearly 10 years: got a speeding ticket. In fact, I enjoyed the occasion so much, I went for broke and did it again two weeks later. Two tickets in the state of Tennessee in one month. Just my luck. Which, if you know me, you know is of the bad variety. I tend to have some rotten outcomes to perfectly normal situations. As my friend Laurie puts it when she hears of my latest transgressions, “That’s so Derek.”

The first ticket was a 58 mph in a 30 mph zone. This was purely just lack of knowledge. The highway had just quickly turned into two-lane and I was already decelerating from 65 when I passed the officer, and thought nothing of it. He was friendly, helpful and witty.

The second was a 62 mph in a 45 mph zone, and I was just plain speeding. Kids, take it from Uncle Derek, slow down. This officer was not in a great mood, curt, and threw out some mild-obscenities, even with my daughter in the back seat.

I didn’t feel like laughing after either instance, but even less so after the second. Of course, it probably didn’t help matters that the officer walked up and said “papers” and I said “scissors” and sped off.

Your move, Officer Thompson.

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