Snibbing the Snick and the Snark

Fragment of Culture, Thought and Dialogue

Reference: We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. Each thought we think is tinged with our own character…. — Vivekananda






Time: present

Setting: coffee shop

At Rise: Three friends are seated together in a coffee shop. There is an uncomfortably long silence during which they sip coffee and seemingly stare into space while avoiding eye contact with each other. Eventually, Casey breaks the silence.

Casey: (continuing to stare aside) Don’t you just hate it when somebody gets whipped cream on their lip?

Drew: Don’t you just hate it when somebody even puts whipped cream in their coffee?

Casey: They have to speak a foreign language to mess themselves up with it. Frappuccino latte mocha mucca.

Drew: (laughing) Serves ’em right.

Landry: Are we so fucking pure just because we drink coffee straight?

Casey: (to Landry) You’re drinking espresso.

Drew: Iced espresso.

Landry: It’s still coffee.

Casey: Yeah.

Landry: It’s strong coffee.

Casey: Are you trying to make some sort of point?

Landry: Not about coffee.

Drew: What then? I thought this conversation was about coffee.

Landry: It’s a metaphor.

Drew: Coffee is a metaphor?

Casey: Hmmm. Frappuccino latte mocha mucca metaphor. That might work. Unless you mumble. Then it’s weak. It loses strength.

Drew: I’ll tell you about strong coffee. My grandmother made the strongest coffee ever. It was the only way she could get my grandfather up in the morning. Her coffee was so strong it sent me into early puberty.

Casey: That’s cheeky.

Landry: It’s disgusting.

Drew: It’s how you drink it, I guess.

Casey: Or how you fix it up or not before you drink it.

Landry: Now we’re back to metaphor.

Drew: We are?

Landry: But we don’t have to be. We could just accept it the way it is.

Casey: Yep. Things are what they are, all right.

Landry: But descriptions of those things are our inventions. Interpretations.

Casey: So?

Landry: Well, how we see things isn’t exactly how somebody else sees them. Maybe nothing like how somebody else sees them. How we think can be disruptive.

Casey: That’s some heavy shit.

Drew: Is “heavy shit” a metaphor, too?

Landry: And how we go and spout off what we think can compound the disruption.

Casey: That’s true. Hadn’t thought about it like that before, but it’s true.

Landry: If a person goes out and says something plainly disruptive, things can get sort of dicey.

Drew: Tell me something, Landry.

Landry: What?

Drew: Is your ice cold or hot?

Casey: (with a tepid laugh before and an uproarious laugh following his comment) They’re rocks. They can be anything.

Drew: Jesus. Another metaphor.

Casey: And a highly disruptive one.

Landry: Maybe. Depends on the context. It could be merely mild.

Drew: Mild. Like saying blue is green and green is blue.

Casey: Like Landry says, it needs context. Blue is green and green is blue gets disruptive real fast when you tell somebody to mow the sky and swim in the lawn.

Landry: I think that metaphor’s a little broken. Cracked maybe? But it is disruptive and it makes the point.

Drew: And that is…

Landry: I was trying to say something about words and…

Drew: (interrupting) Words are good to say.

Casey: Or bad to say.

Landry: My point works either way. Words express thoughts and thoughts…well…thoughts are just whatever they…

Casey: (interrupting) Whatever they are. Thoughts are whatever they are.

Landry: Exactly. And if thoughts have meaning and words are how meaning is expressed, words have importance. Unusual importance sometimes, even when we don’t realize it.

Drew: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Words.

Casey: And so your point is that words have meaning?

Drew: Especially when used as a metaphor.

(Casey and Drew break into uproarious laughter.)

Landry: Go back to context again.

Drew: Like I said. Metaphor.

(Barista approaches as Drew and Casey chuckle.)

Barista: You guys need refills?

Casey, Drew: (simultaneously) Yes. Thanks.

Barista: (to Landry) You need more ice, too?

Drew: Yes. Landry is hot. Metaphorically speaking.

Casey: And needs some context, too. Got some of that?

(Casey and Drew laugh while the puzzled Barista takes care of their coffee.)

Landry: Think about that matter of context for a minute.

Drew: Context. You mean disruption?

Landry: Context doesn’t have to be disruptive.

Casey: I gotcha. Context can be mild, too.

Landry: Yes.

Drew: Like just plain old simple cream, if you want to do that metaphor stuff again, as opposed to jazzed up whipped cream.

Casey: Highly disruptive that whipped cream. Cup or lip. Either way, it’s disruptive.

Landry: But in the right context it doesn’t have to be disruptive. It’s all how you look at it.

Drew: Or taste it.

Casey: Or get it all over your lip. Now that’s disruptive.

Landry: Disruptive doesn’t have to be the word.

Casey: Disruptive is the word.

Drew: Think about somebody trying to carry on a conversation with you while a glop of white stuff is hanging on their lip.

(Drew leans toward Landry and moves his mouth woodenly with exaggerated opening and closing motion.)

Casey: (laughing) Do you think you could focus on what they were saying?

Drew: Of course not. You’d be worried that some of that stuff would fly off and hit you in the face. Or wind up in your coffee.

Casey: Pure disruption.

Landry: You’re right. But I’m trying to talk about the meaning of words here. Not just disruption.

Casey: Actually, this has been a very disruptive conversation.

Landry: We’ve gotten a little off track. But while we’re on that route, it’s worth observing that we use that word disruption too much lately.

Drew: I don’t think I do.

Landry: I mean in general. In society. In our culture. It’s become an all-purpose buzzword. We think everything has to be disruptive now.

Casey: Right again, Landry. You’re on a roll, to use a metaphor.

Landry: But this business about disruption is sort of right up the alley I was trying to lead to.

Drew: This is threatening to get a little boring. You know that, don’t you?

Casey: Tedious.

Drew: That, too.

Landry: All I was trying to say is that sometimes people are needlessly disruptive. Maybe I should have said critical.

Casey: They’re not the same thing. Disruptive and critical, I mean.

Landry: Granted. But they often work together.

Drew: Except when criticism is ignored which it often is.

Landry: Seemingly ignored. By the subject of criticism. But frequently it’s fake ignorance because the object of criticism doesn’t want to let on that they know they’ve been criticized.

Casey: Like when a playwright says they ignore reviews but they secretly stew over them.

Landry: Exactly. But sometimes the criticism doesn’t even have to have words. Gestures. Body language can be enough.

Casey: Like when somebody pretends to ignore an eye-roll.

Landry: (emphatically) Yes! The criticism hits hard and only seems to bounce off.

Drew: Can we talk about something else?

Landry: But not only is the criticism not really ignored, it can hurt, sometimes badly and when it has no good intention behind it which something like an eye-roll never does…

(Drew interrupts with an exaggerated eye-roll.)

Landry: Be patient Drew, I’m almost through. My whole point is that criticism is often needless. Sometimes it’s about stuff that’s insignificant, totally unimportant. It wastes time and energy as pointless distraction from real issues. And not infrequently becomes the object of scorn itself because it’s so counterproductive.

Casey: Like when it’s snide instead of private, constructive communication.

Landry: That’s it. That’s the point. And very much of the time it bounces back against the person being critical. It hurts them, too.

Drew: That’s two points.

Landry: Huh?

Drew: You made two points instead of the one you said you would make.

Landry: Okay. That’s all any of us can take of this.

Casey: Easy, there Drew. At least there wasn’t another metaphor. It was all straightforward.

Landry: And this, too…

Drew: (interrupting) Another two?

Landry: People really need to hold back their thoughts when they’re needlessly damaging to other people and ultimately to themselves.

Drew: Jesus.

Casey: Now, Jesus is a metaphor if ever there was one. A metaphor with a halo.

Drew: A halo with whipped cream on it?

(Drew and Casey break into uproarious laughter.)

Landry: Okay. I’ve had enough today. (rises from the table, speaking as he moves away and exits) I’ll finish my coffee when I come back from the restroom, then I’m out of here.

Casey: (after a brief pause) That’s about it for me, too. (pauses after rising with a thoughtful look directly at Drew) The only thing I could add to that is that sometimes even careful, well-intentioned people just can’t avoid giving a good slam when it’s due. (exits)

(After a thoughtful but short pause, Drew motions for Barista who arrives promptly carrying a tray.)

Drew: I’ve got to go and Landry is in the restroom but wants to finish drinking the coffee. (points with disdain) That iced espresso.

Barista: No problem. I’ll leave it right here.

Drew: But to finish up with it, Landry wants a big dollop of whipped cream right on top of the ice.

Barista: (adding the whipped cream from a container on the tray) Okay. Whatever you say.

Drew: Thanks.

(As the Barista exits, Drew leans over the whipped cream topped espresso and grins broadly before exiting. Landry returns presently, surprised to realize the others have left, then, reaches for the espresso, stops short, stares and blinks before looking away with an exaggerated eye-roll.)


in the public domain by Michael Driver (no rights reserved)

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