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"If You Can't Say Something Nice About Someone ..."

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | October 10, 2009 |

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | October 10, 2009 |

“… don’t say anything at all.”

Your mom ever tell you that? My mom did. It’s probably good advice, though I’ve never scrupulously followed it. It’s easy (and, let’s face it, fun) to say something nasty about someone, something cruel. It’s a little harder to say something truly and sincerely … nice. It takes some thought and some attention to detail.

The other night I went to Gibbie’s to see the Love-Me-Knots and the V-Necks. It’s the same three guys, but they make two bands and play different styles. Anyway, as usual I was drinking beer and rocking my ass off. And afterward, Brian, the leader of the two bands (who had himself been drinking and rocking his ass off — and BTW is one of the few people I’ve ever met who really DOES get funnier the drunker he gets) said to me:

“Thanks for coming. You’re my favorite fan.”

And I thought, yeah, yeah, you say that to everybody.

But in my semi-inebriated state I decided to think about it a little more, and dammit I decided he was right, and that I damn well OUGHT to be his favorite fan. I take my local bands and my fun seriously. I don’t care what I look like, how badly I, um, “dance.” I don’t care who’s watching. I don’t care if I’m by myself or with people. I kick my own ass, and I never get cheated.

So I decided Brian was absofuckinglutely right, and that he meant that compliment only for me.

And I felt good.

And maybe the only thing better than getting a compliment like that is giving one. There’s a family I see most weeks at St. Mary’s. The woman is tall and skinny, even though she’s pumped out five kids, and I’ve sat behind them from time to time (the kids are four girls and a boy, ranging from a toddler to teenagers) and after awhle I noticed something special. The kids were the best behaved kids I’ve ever seen in public. Sure, the littlest one squirmed some, but the rest … There was no fooling around, no fighting or squabbling or horseplay at all. They didn’t whisper and laugh among themselves or seem to get on each other’s nerves. It also didn’t look like they were terrified of retribution if they got out of line. It was like they knew what was expected of them, and that they were expected to sit still and be quiet for an hour and act like little adults, and that’s what they did.

Finally one day I stopped the woman going out the door and said, “I just want to tell you what a tribute to their mother your children are. They’re the best-behaved kids I’ve ever seen.” She lit up like it was Christmas morning. That was years ago, and I still see them most weeks, and they’re still amazingly good, and the woman smiles at me, and she looks pretty.

There’s a talkative checkout clerk at one of the grocery stores I go to. Over time I had noticed how careful and efficient she was at bagging, all the while keeping up a stream of cheery conversation. Until one day when for some reason she was talking herself down, talking about what a bad job she did. Maybe she was engaging in self-mockery or self-pity, but still I couldn’t let that pass: “That’s not true,” said. “I pay attention, and you do an excellent job. You’re the best bagger I’ve ever seen.” She seemed a little caught by surprise, didn’t really know what to say for once, but I like to think I made her day, week, year …

OK, one more. I was at an amusement park and it was getting late and getting chilly, and I’d left a jacket in the car, so I went to the security checkpoint and told the girl there what I was doing. When I came back through, she said sorry, she had to check my jacket, and did, and said, “Thank you.” And I said, “No, thank YOU for being here and doing this job to make this a safe place for us to come and have a good time.” And she said, “That’s the first time all year anyone’s said that to me.” And I think I got just a little teary-eyed at that …

Wow, I do like to tell some stories, don’t I?

OK, it’s your turn: What’s the best compliment anyone ever paid you? (Besides, “Nice rack” or “That was aMAAAAAAAAzing,” I mean, zzzzzzzzzzzz, we’re Pajibans, we hear that stuff ALL the time.) And what’s the nicest thing you ever got to tell someone?


Couples Retreat Review | Pajiba Afer Dark 10/11/09

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.