Part 11 of 31
They Found Another Body
I remember when we were kids they were always trying to teach us about words, then slip in life lessons in such a killer way that we’d never forget them. I don't know if you remember that. I’ve lectured about it in motels, mostly for focus groups that help struggling blog writers. Most of them had no clue what I was talking about. And yet I still finished the lecture.
It goes like this. The teacher writes on the board 10 words that are real jawbreakers. Big huge complicated bug-like words, lots of Ks and Js and Xs, like Polish, bigger, harder words than we've ever heard. I remember accommodation, wherewithal, purloined, recommended, xylophone, landfills, and stalactite. She said, “How ya like the looks of them jawbreakers, eh?” And everyone of us knew exactly what she was talking about: If I’m supposed to understand words like that and know how to spell them, let me out now, this is officially my last day of school...
But her educational wiles weren't quite over. It turned out what we thought was the main course — the bullseye of her strategy — was just the warm up act for something more challenging and devious. (A lot of kids dropped out that day, but my square parents wouldn’t allow me one little bit of personal freedom.) The teacher was just warming up for a mental jawbreaker to burden us with. “Well, listen to this, children, the biggest word in the English language (and this is possibly true for other language groups) is “IF.”
Oh! I remember having a cow when I heard that! It was like I was drowning in the river and couldn't catch my breath. I had a cow and I’m not even built with the female off-ramp. Despite that, I did give birth to a full grown cow, something from the magical powers of disbelief. We were in fact so beside ourselves, the fact that that schoolhouse and teacher weren’t burned to the ground or killed, respectively, were miracles as mighty as the feeding of the 5,000. And this was after lunch break.
The teacher's explanation was lame. “IF” is the longest word — her contention — because IF you have a plan, IF you have a purpose, IF you need to borrow $40 million to pay the taxes on a vacant mall site, your challenges have just begun. And so, thereby it is proven — by hook or crook — that IF is one of the biggest words...
Trying to keep bodies from popping up in the river requires a big IF too. IF you’re thrown into the river because you stiffed a guy on loans… IF you’re thrown in the river because they've shot you … that represents a failure along the way, a bad decision, or something. IF they simply took you because of a false identification, there’s a reason there too, but not as good. You shouldn’t have looked like everyone else. IF you’re that average, fluff up your hair, wear a turban, dress in purple, anything. Go nude jumping a rope. Do whatever you can to stay out of trouble (1), and (2) Make sure you have follow-through for your plans. Don’t end up in the river and you'll just wonder, What IF?
This goes for everyone, the guy from the Amazon River, Joe Average, Grizelda the Green Witch, and even the late Abraham Lincoln.