The constant search for the perfect retort | VailDaily.com
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The constant search for the perfect retort

Barry Smith
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyBarry Smith
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For a brief time, I worked in a store that, despite not having any records for sale, was still commonly known as a “record” store.

At least once a day I’d have the following exchange:

Customer: Do you have that one song?

Me: Which one song?

Customer: That one they’re playing on the radio all the time.

Me: Probably. What’s it called?

Customer: I’m not sure. Something about love. Maybe.

Me: Who’s it by?

Customer: Ummm … I don’t know.

Me: Man or woman?

Customer: Hard to tell.

Me: Could you sing a little of it for me?

Customer: Oh no, I can’t sing.

Me: Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.

Customer (suddenly angry): How does someone who doesn’t know anything about music get a job in a record store?

Me: Uh …

Some variation of this happened at least once a day, yet I never was able to come up with a snappy retort.

True, I could have replied: “How does someone who doesn’t know anything about music get a job in a record store?” using a voice that’s a high-pitched, mocking imitation of the customer. Satisfying as that is (and was), it can hardly be considered snappy.

Years later, about four to be exact, I came up with the following reply: “Oh, this isn’t a record store, it’s a holding pen for people who demand that retail workers be able to read their tiny little minds. The exits have been locked. Please wait with the others in the folk section until it’s time for your reconditioning. Next!”

Yeah, it always comes to me ” the absolute perfect thing to say ” only sometimes it can take decades.

However, when I do think of it, whatever “it” may be, I write it down on my …

List of things I wish I said.

Sept. 17, 1975 ” I should have said to my third-grade teacher: “‘Cheating’ is a serious accusation and your evidence is purely circumstantial. I was picking up my pencil. I suggest you consider withdrawing these slanderous remarks or the next time you hear the word ‘recess’ it’ll be coming from a judge.” (Not thought of until March 24, 1987)

Jan. 5, 1977 ” I should have said to Billy Greene, “That may or may not be the case, but I suspect that it would take an electron microscope to locate yours … if you even have one! Jerk!” (Thought of: Midsummer, 1991)

October 31, 1978 ” I shoulda said, “Your refusal to give me candy because I appear too old to be Trick or Treating fails to take into account the fact that I am still young enough to be tried as a minor for any damage that I inflict on your jalopy. I would think that the smart money would be on you giving me a handful of Bit-O-Honeys and keeping your flap shut. Now then, let’s start again, you old hag. Trick or treat?” (Thought of: April 27, 2002)

December 25, 1979 ” I should have said, upon removing the wrapping: “Wow, thanks Santa! Even though I specifically asked for a motorcycle, this Etch-A-Sketch is a fine substitute, and the more I gaze upon this archaic toy recommended for children at least five years younger than I am, the more I realize just how wise you really are. This is even better than last Christmas, the one where I wrote ‘Yamaha YZ-80’ on my wish list and you realized that I actually meant ‘Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop.'” (Thought of: Dec. 25, 2003)

July 17, 1996 ” Shoulda said: “Oh yeah, that’s only because you don’t know the difference between the words ‘principle’ and ‘principal!’ Jerk!” (Thought of August 28, 1996, ALMOST in time to call the person up and use it.)

Early May, 2005 ” If only I’d said, “Actually, if you must know, what I do is collect the hard, flaky residue that forms in the corners of my eyes while I sleep. After a month or so, I’ve accumulated a medium-sized spice bottle full of the stuff, which I then season appropriately and pawn off as imitation bacon bits.” (Thought of: March 3, 2008, though I’ve since forgotten the original situation I needed it for.)

Visit Barry’s web page at http://www.barrysmith.com to read more.


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