Friday 21 Oct 2016

Speck in Your Neighbour's Eye
Sjef Frenken

My friend Jack is a man of parts -- as the English say, or used to say. Some of those parts he doesn't use much any more -- they're worn out, I think. Others he keeps in shape with the help of some very friendly ladies of his acquaintance.

Make no mistake: he knows a lot more than you think he does, although not nearly as much as he wants you to think he does. In that respect, I guess, he's like most people.

As usual we met in the food court at the Bayshore Shopping Centre. Now, you may wonder why we always meet there. The answer is simple: it's where Jack goes every day to take care of whatever shopping he has to do, other than his weekly run to Loeb at Lincoln Fields, a bit down the road. He doesn't have a car; the bus is fine for him. And since he has to travel by bus, he can't carry all his shopping at the same time. Hence he uses his bus pass a lot. And shank's mare for nearby errands, such as the Bayshore Shopping Centre. That's also where he has his lunch during the week. And if I do have to go to Bayshore -- I live in the West End too -- I try to arrange to drive there around noon, on the chance I'll run into him. We're old friends, quite used by now to each other's idiosyncrasies, although I think he has more of them than I do.

Jack looked perturbed as I took my seat opposite him.

He said: "I'm really pissed off!"

I thought: "What else is new!" I said: "OK, Jack, get it off you chest"

He said: "It isn't a big thing, just a lot of little things ...."

I said: "Not a man-eating tiger, just a lot of gnats."

"Exactly!" Jack said. "I just went to the TD Bank on the second floor, to draw some money out of my account. I went up to the counter. A new teller there asked me to swipe my card. Then she asked me to enter my PIN number." Jack stopped and looked at me expectantly.

I said: "So?"

Jack said: "Don't you get it?"

I said: "No, I don't."

Jack said: "'PIN number' is redundant!" PIN stands for Personal Identification number, so saying PIN number is saying Personal Identification Number number. It's stupid."

I agreed that it wasn't the smartest thing I'd ever heard.

Jack continued: "And then she told me that next time I should use the ATM machine at the front of the bank. I said, first of all I come to the tellers to keep people like you in a job: if everybody used ATMs, you'd all be out looking for work. And second, it's not 'ATM machine' it's either AT Machine or ATM, but not ATM machine."

I said: "Jack, life's too short to be bothered by such little human foibles. It probably raises your blood pressure and spoils the fun in life. 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do'. You probably have a few foibles yourself."

"Well," said Jack, "if you ever catch me saying that kind of thing, let me know."

"Only because you are asking me to," I said.

"OK," said Jack. "The reason I had to withdraw some money is because I have Martha and the kids coming over from Winnipeg for the weekend and ...."

I said: "stop right there, Jack."

Jack said: "Why?"

I said: "Because you asked me to stop you when I caught you in a solecism."

Jack said: "What's a solecism?"

I said: "It's an error in grammar or writing. Actually it's a pleonasm, a redundancy. When you say 'the reason is because' you are actually saying 'The reason is for the reason that...' And that's a grammatical error. But go on about Martha and the kids."

Jack continued: "I'm planning to take them to the Museum of Civilization and the National gallery during the course of the weekend ...."

I interjected: "Stop again."

Jack said: "What the hell now? What did I say wrong?"

I said: "'During the course', that's a no-no. You're combining two phrases that mean the same thing: 'during' and 'in the course of'. But go on."

Jack said: "Yeah, but you're taking the fun out of it."

I said: "Only because you asked me to."

Jack continued: "Anyhow, during that period of time, I want to show them all ...."

I said: "Jack, I hate to do this, but that's another no-no."

Jack said: "What is?"

I said: "'period of time'. 'Period' alone is fine, and 'time' alone is fine, but 'period of time' is redundant."

"Well," said Jack, "consider my request to interrupt me null and void.

"Stop." I said.

"Cease and desist then" said Jack.

"Stop." I said.

Jack said: "I won't repeat my request again."

"Stop." I said.

"NO, YOU STOP." Jack said emphatically. "Alright, I get it!" He paused. "You're a bit of an asshole, aren't you!"

I winked at him and said: "It takes one to know one."

He winked right back and said: "You should avoid cliches like the plague."

I could have had him on that last line, but I let it pass. For now. I felt magnanimous, so I said: "Touche, Jack!"

Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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