Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's all a Matter of Emphasis

One of the great things about being completely random is that I never feel the need to write something thought provoking and/or deep. I may do that accidentally sometimes, but - you know - no pressure. I'm not, after all, a writer. I'm a silly person who writes a blog that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, people read on a regular basis. I do have a theory, however. Not to brag or anything, but I think I have the uncanny ability to find really good writers in the blogosphere. And don't try to deny it, because some of you people follow me everywhere! Hey Look a Chicken has become some sort of bloggity portal through which many people find much awesomeness. (You're welcome.)

Oh, and check this out! The last time I wrote a post about a really good blog, the writer's name was Koffijah. This time, his name is Billy Coffey. I really like coffee. I really like Koffijah and Billy Coffey. Did anyone else just get a little chill down their spine? No? Okay, whatever...

I suppose I could just give you a link to Billy's blog, but he was kind enough to allow me to post a story here. Besides, I think after you read it, you will be a fan of What I Learned Today just like me. And while you're over there, please disregard my stupid random comments sprinkled among the unabashed declarations of adoration for his writing. I just like to mix things up a little. Enough of me, here's one of Billy's recent posts:

Please Take One

The toy store downtown is one of those mom-and-pop deals that you can get lost in, the sort of place where you can find things that Toys R Us would never think of stocking. Good things. Great things. Things that really, really make me wish I were a kid again. Which makes shopping there both a pleasure and a curse. A pleasure because there is so much I’d like to get my kids for two weeks of chores well done. A curse because I can’t make up my mind what to get them.

So, there on a Wednesday during lunch, I wander. And in my wandering I happen to spot a Longaberger basket sitting atop a wooden display of toy soldiers (Toy soldiers, I think to myself. My son would love some toy soldiers).

In the basket is a pile of those long, thick pretzel sticks. The sign above them says PLEASE TAKE ONE.

Given the fact that it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry, that’s exactly what I do. I take one and munch while I walk. Through the Legos, the building blocks, the books, the dolls. Through the Tonka trucks and coloring books and Play Doh.

And I am back to where I started. At the basket of pretzels.

Still unsure of what to buy and still hungry, I decide to restock and take another trip around the store. I reach into the basket for another pretzel. And as I bite it, I see something out of the corner of my eye.

Standing beside the stuffed animals about four feet away is a little boy. Sixish, not much older than my son, and staring. At me. He holds out one fist and raises his index finger.

One, it says.

I wrinkle my eyebrows, unsure of what his attempt at sign language means.

One, again.

“What?” I ask him (which actually came out as “Wamp?” because I hadn’t swallowed yet).

“You took two pretzels,” he says.


“You’re only ‘posed to take one.”

“Who are you” I ask, “the pretzel police?”

“It’s what the sign says,” he states, now using his index finger to point. “Mama said the sign says ‘Please take one.”

I look at the sign, then back to him. “No,” I answer, “the sign says ‘Please take one.’ There’s a difference. It’s all a matter of emphasis.”

“What’s empkasis?”

“Never mind,” I say.

“You shouldn’t have taken that pretzel. Mama says God watches us.”

My mind takes a sudden detour to those old Disney movies, where the older, bigger kid was always accompanied by Jiminy Cricket, Mr. Disney’s version of a conscience. I’m starting to think this kid is my Jiminy Cricket. Or maybe just aggravating. I haven’t made up my mind yet.

“Your mama’s right,” I answer, wondering where in the world his mama was. “But since God knows the sign says ‘Please take one,’ I think I’m in the clear.”

“Please. Take. One,” he corrects.

There we stand in the middle of the store, staring down one another like two gunslingers in a Western wondering who would draw first.

PLEASE TAKE ONE. An invitation to me, a rule for him. Which was right? I’m not as sure as I was a few minutes ago.

How do we decide who is right and who is wrong? Easy.

Go ask the owner of the store.

“Excuse me,” I say to the nice lady behind the counter. “I was wondering if you could shed a little light on a problem this youngin’ and I are having.”

She perks up and joins us, happy to have something to do.

“We were wondering about this sign here,” I say. “Is it please take one, or please take one?”

The owner gives us both a strange look. “Well, I’m not sure. No one’s ever asked.”

“It’s preyin’ on our minds, ma’am,” the boy says.

“Preyin’,” I add.

“If you’d like a pretzel,” she says, “please take one. If you’d like another, you can take one, too.”


“Can I have a pretzel?” the boy asks.

Situation resolved, the three of us part ways. Him to his mother, who had been preoccupied with the books, the owner back to the register, and me to finish my shopping.

Funny, I think, how three words led us this far. But I am sure of this: if two people can disagree over something as simple as pretzels, it’s no wonder why we disagree over the important things even more—politics and God, right and wrong, war and peace.

Who’s to know which is right and which is wrong? Or even if there really is a right and wrong? How do we settle our differences, put away our prejudices, and find the truth?

Maybe, I thought, we should all do what that little boy and I ended up doing.

Maybe we should all go the Owner of the store and see what He says.

(Oh sure, it's no top ten shiny vampire list. But still, very good.)

P. S. - Billy, In your email, you mentioned that you didn't remember how you found your way over to my blog. I'm pretty sure it was the first comment I made on your post, The Fruit Salad. Here's what I said (in part):
"Your grandmother was a very wise woman, indeed. And you dropped the "f" bomb on her? Jerk!"

You left a comment here before mine was even posted.

P. S. S. - If you have a comment for Billy, please feel free to post it here. I'll try to keep my big mouth shut. (No promises, though.)


jasonS said...

Yep, billy you're awesome!

Helen said...

I left this comment about the post on his blog, but felt a little embarrassed. I feel no such embarrassment here.

This story reminded me of a joke...
The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray:
"Take only ONE. God is watching."
Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies.
A child had written a note, "Take all you want. God is busy watching the apples”.
Billy, you asked about a comment Katdish made about me, salsa dancing, and proclaiming I believe in love at the supermarket. I left this response on my blog, but am putting it here in case you didn't see it.

Billy, I try to pretend to be sane when I comment on your blog, but these are the comments I leave elsewhere. Unfortunately for people who work at Jewel, this is a true story, and not something I wrote to be funny. I left this on Fellowship of the Traveling Smarty Pants yesterday.
"I, too, am tired of pretending I am not crazy.
Today, at the grocery store, while I was salsaing to Marc Anthony in the canned vegetable aisle, they interrupted him for an announcement of what the new sale items are, and then came back to Huey Lewis and the News's 'Do You Believe in Love'. I got even. I ran up and down the aisles holding my hands up charasmatic style screaming 'YES! I DO BELIEVE IN LOVE! POUR IT DOWN HUEY! POUR IT DOWN!.'
I'm sure that will be the last time Marc Anthony is interrupted at THAT Jewel.."

As a further note, my local Dominick's no longer plays music over the p.a. system. I am thinking of threatening to sing and dance to the music in my head if they don't reinstate it promptly. What do you think?

Sherri Murphy said...

I emailed Billy when I read this on his site. He knows exactly how I feel.
He is so easy to read.

Billy Coffey said...

I know Billy Coffey. Billy Coffey is awesome.

But not as awesome as katdish.

Carol @SheLives said...

katdish, I gotta admit, you do have a way of finding blogish awesomeness. Loved the post. Love pretzels. Love the name Billy Coffee. Think I'll go pour me a cup.

(How's that for some loose association?)

Annie K said...

Billy, please don't use flattery on Katdish. We're trying to keep her head down to a decent size.

Oh, and I loved this post when I read it over at your blog. You're awesome Billy.

wv: absucipl - I had to type this ridiculous thing 82 times before I got it right.

Lianne said...

So THAT'S what he looks like! I would know the back of Billy Coffey's head anywhere, but had no idea about his face. : )

Katdish--How did you score a headshot? You are cooler than I knew.

katdish said...

Billy -

Don't listen to Annie K - she's not the boss of you!

(back to lurker mode...)

Wendy said...

Yup, I read this over on his blog. Good stuff, that. But I have a question... Do people call him Billy or Billy Coffey? Because it's so much fun to say "Billy Coffey"...

Billy Coffey is like mom and apple pie. Wait, no. That's America.

Billy Coffey is like a breath of fresh air. Again, no. That's spring.

Okay, got it now. Billy Coffey is like coffee, with lots of cream and sugar, and a good book.

So there you have it.

Peter P said...


I don't know Billy but I do cruise by his site once in a blue-ish moon.

It seems Billy has gone up in the world. Being syndicated on HLAC is like being on George W Bush's staff and being invited to take a job on Barack Obama's team.

Great post btw Billy.

Anonymous said...

Very cool story. A real man would have given the boy a purple nurple and ran. :)

Or maybe just sat there and ate all the pretzels one after the other in front of the wee one.

katdish said...


I think Tony York just questioned your man card.

Tony - He may be an eloquent writer, but he's also a Virginia redneck. Don't know if I'd go there...

(back to lurker mode...)

Billy Coffey said...


Please remember, dear people, that the boy's mother was in the store. And that she had tattoos (mean ones). And a mullet. Actually, she may have even been the boys father.

Therefore, my man card will continue to remain safely in my back pocket.

Anonymous said...

Tattoos and a Mullet.. love the picture of androgynous personage that depicts.

I hear they spit.

Peter P said...

Was she also his uncle?
Or Aunt?

Nick the Geek said...

Frigintastic story with a great moral. I love that you took the time to talk with this boy instead of just blowing him off and going about your business. You didn't mention that but I think it is really important that we actually listen to each other instead of just assuming we know it all and going about our business. You never know when you are actually in the wrong when you conduct yourself that way.

Richard said...

language is so unclear without context. this is a pretty sweet post.

Billy Coffey said...

They do spit. And by "they," I mean both aunts and uncles.

God said...

Dear Billy (via Kat),

I was watching your little battle over the pretzels. And while I appreciate your whole "ask the owner" parable, it really would have been faster if you'd come directly to me and skipped the middle man.

Maybe you wouldn't have learned a valuable lesson, but it'd make a much better story, don't you think? Instead of, "The store owner told me the right answer," it could have been, "Then God appeared and we played toy soldiers and laser tag and Boggle all afternoon, and God miracled some delicious cheese dipping sauce for all the pretzels we ate!"

Moral of this new and improved story: always aim for the new and improved story.



katdish said...

It's official:

Billy Coffey > katdish

(This is the first time God has left a comment on my blog.)

katdish said...

(and you ARE hilarious, just like you said)

Unknown said...

I read this on his blog too - it is wonderful to smile so big while learning deep truths that can be life changing if we let them!


Brenda said...

Billy, you're an interesting writer with wonderful insight. I'm really impressed that you know what a longaberger basket is. I just learned about these myself only a few short weeks ago.

I read your funny Starbucks story. The next day as I was walking my dog along a trail, I spotted a Starbucks cup sleeve laying in the dirt and thought of you, which I'm sure I will every time I see one from now on. :)

katdish said...


I will also think of you when I seen a Starbucks cup sleeve laying in the dirt.

Beth E. said...

Okay, I confess...I came over here because I read Billy's post saying he was guest blogging here. I decided to come check it out!

Billy...you know I'm a newcomer to your blog, but I've quickly become a fan!

katdish...I've been reading your posts, too. You're a hoot, girl! I've had great fun reading your blog, making everyone here at home wonder why I'm laughing so hard! I reaaly needed a good laugh today...thanks!