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Make My Day
In James Bond or Dirty Harry movies, the hero always comes up with a quip to defuse or punctuate a tense situation. In films, that's easy. Your hero has a battery of scriptwriters (or at least one) to come up with the bon mots that show the hero has a (dark) sense of humor. Classic examples include Dirty Harry's comment to "Make my day" (in Sudden Impact, when a hostage-taker threatens to kill a hostage at which point Harry will have a chance to blow away the hostage-taker, thereby making his day), or Bond's comment, "He got the point" (in Thunderball, after harpooning a would-be-assassin).
(A side note: I always thought that in his younger years, Clint Eastwood would have made a good cinematic Jesus Christ. Think about it: Jesus is always coming up with clever quips that thwart his enemies and make Jesus seem like the cooler dude. Take the time his enemies tried to trick him into admitting that his disciples had broken Jewish law by helping a man get his donkey out of a ditch on the Sabbath. "Master," they reportedly said. "Have not your disciples broken the law by working on the Sabbath, a day of rest?" I always pictured Eastwood whispering Jesus's response: "The Sabbath was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath." Punk!)
Invariably in real life, however, when faced with a situation calling for a clever quip, I often fumble around, coming up with not-so-clever remarks like, "Oh yeah?" or "What's your problem, pal?" (An ex-girlfriend of mine used to say that I always added the word "pal" or "buddy" to address strangers with whom I was arguing. Another attempt at subtle irony, I guess.) Recently, when I was desperately relieving myself in the park, a Parks Department employee drove up and started yelling at me. "Why didn't you use the bathroom in the playground?" he yelled. "I didn't know it was there!" I replied truthfully but lamely. "Well, it is," he said. Then, in an attempt at sharp wit, I called out: "I don't see why dogs can urinate in the park and humans can't!" That's zinging it to him!
There are those who are good at impromptu quips. My dad used to be able to come up with funny pronouncements on the spur of the moment. When riding a bus one day, he was trying to read but kept being distracted by a woman talking loudly on a cell phone. He vented his frustration as he got off the bus by politely leaning towards the talkative lady and saying, "Excuse me, madame, but I couldn't quite catch that last comment. Could you repeat it?"
But my favorite comes from my mother. At a memory test she took some years ago, the doctor asked her, "What year were you born?" Her reply: "1921." Doctor: "And what year is this?" Mother: "1991." Doctor: "And how old does that make you?" Mother: "You figure it out."
Make my day, pal.
May 30, 2011