He Said What?

My daughter is a neat freak like her mother and they both have this habit of taking things apart to get them “real clean.” Well she took the oven door apart last week with that very thought in mind and by the time she unscrewed every factory-sealed piece of glass and weather-stripping she rendered the door useless. Her husband and I got it to work in a cosmetic way but it was not really “safe” the way we had it rigged. She needed a new oven.

As fate would have it, I overheard a friend talking about a recent hotel renovation that included the replacement of all stoves and refrigerators. He said all the stuff they were taking out was available for a really reasonable price. Sure enough a few days later, I was able to buy one of these units for a fraction of its original cost and scheduled it to be delivered on her birthday. The wife and I arrived right behind the delivery guys to oversee the installation (have to be careful with gas appliances). She was ever so grateful as the delivery men began to unload the truck and even happier when she found the new unit was actually better quality than the one she had before.

Now folks, I told you all that so I could tell you this.

The two delivery men were very polite in an old-fashioned way with their “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir,” but when they were just out of earshot of my daughter, they were possibly two of the crudest men you’d ever want to meet and as they were installing it and hooking up the gas line; the names they were calling each other were nothing short of hilarious.

Now I have worked road crew jobs and factory floor jobs my whole life as a young man and I have been exposed to some major-league obscenities but my 12-year-old grandson is not used to that kind of talk. When he took one of the gentlemen into the basement to show him where the shut-off valve was, the two workmen began yelling to each other as the gas line was secured. When the one upstairs couldn’t hear the one downstairs, he let forth with a string of name calling and filth that would have embarrassed King Kong. When the job was done and they ascended the stairs, David Junior was first out of the basement and he had a grin on his face that he could barely contain.

I smiled at him knowing what he’d heard and he sprinted into the other room where he let go with a laugh that sounded like Snagglepuss from the old Hanna Barbara cartoons; hissing through his teeth till his lips popped open with a roar. The old installer smiled when he heard him and gave me a wink.

As they hauled the old unit to the truck, David tagged along and stood at the tailgate watching them. His admiration for his momentary hero was obvious. This guy went places David had never been before and a sort of “right of passage” into manhood step had been taken. The man finished his loading and put a hand on David’s shoulder. He pointed to a woman walking her dog up the street a ways and whispered something else in David’s ear and I saw his jaw drop and eyes pop, so I could only imagine what the topper was, but the deed had been done and David was forever a changed and more experienced young man.

Of course my wife and daughter were oblivious to all this and the look in David’s eye told me this would be our secret, which made it all the more special to him and hilarious to me.

All men have them you know; a guy in our childhood that treated us with irreverence and didn’t care if we heard something that should have only been reserved for adults. Like the bully that calls us names and forces us to improve ourselves this crude and obnoxious individual serves a great cause in our growth.

I recall being hired to help this cranky old friend of my dad’s paint a series of apartments. I was about 13 or 14 and this guy was showing me how to roll white paint on ceilings. After his 10-second explanation, he handed me the roller and the long handle which I raised to the ceiling and immediately snapped as I applied too much pressure.  “You stupid!@#$%^&*(++*&%?!!,” he shouted. “Get your head outta your $#@!&&*(&^%$!!” I was in shock. This was my dad’s friend. If dad knew he spoke to me like that, he’d be really mad. But as the day wore on and this man just kept yelling at everyone that worked for him, I began to realize it was simply the way he talked. By time I got home and my dad asked, “How did it go?” My answer was simply, “Fine.” And it was fine. If I wanted to be treated like a man, I had to handle it like a man. I still believe that day was a step forward in adulthood, as crude as it may sound.

And let me be clear here. I am not advocating foul-mouthed parenting or anything like that. I am merely pointing out that some rather unrefined people walk this earth too and our children will encounter them someday, likely work for them at some point, and they need to hear what they have to say, too. Some forms of communication are just a bit more harsh but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that what everyone has to say is still important. It can’t always be gift wrapped so it is palatable to you. That cop that screams, “Hey you idiot you’re going the wrong way,” probably just saved your life.

One of the most colorful examples of such an individual is the one that begins every utterance with the up-front explanation of, “Excuse my French.” This is his forewarning that it’s about to get filthy in here and he has no control over it or better yet no better words to describe it.  This is such an amusing exchange, especially when the guy says it to a more proper and prim woman. Mainly because what he is saying is usually dead-on accurate and the woman knows it but would never say it that way.

I was at a funeral home wake one day and I had evidently arrived early so I seated myself among the chairs and just before the other people arrived, two of the funeral home directors scurried into the room and were fussing with the curtains as the widow must have complained that there was too much sun peeking through the window on the body. As they were working, the widow came through the back and sat next to me. I’d worked with her husband for years.  The men didn’t see her come in and when they finished their adjustments, the one joked to the other, “This guy’s been a major pain in the *** since he got here.” They both laughed.  When they left she patted me on the knee as she went to take her place up front. “Seems these gentlemen knew my husband pretty well, too,” she smiled. I guess humor hides in the strangest places. Even an irreverent jab can lighten the moment.

As we age, men speak this way more it seems. Certainly when the ladies are out of the room it’s a “no-holds-barred” litany of obscenities no matter what the topic. But as I hear us pop off in this manner, I know in my heart we all heard it first somewhere in our youth when it seemed to have as much daring in it as smoking or driving or any of the other things young men aspire to. No--it is not our proudest moment but it is an important moment nonetheless.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.