by the Night Writer
A few years ago I stopped at a local gas station and convenience store to tank up. It was a Saturday and back in the day when you had to go into the store to pay, and it so happened that I was in a hurry. I stood in line while the sole cashier seemed to take his sweet, ever-lovin’ time in handling the transactions of those in front of me. When it was my turn I felt a strong urge to make some cutting comment, or call the guy “Lightning” or something similar. Just as I was about to do that, however, I had an even stronger thought: “What if I say that and this same guy shows up at church tomorrow as a visitor while I’m ushering?”
My fiery-hot comment turned to ashes in my mouth. I swallowed hard, signed my receipt and beat it out of there. I may have lost a few minutes but I probably gained something more.
I still think of this little episode from time to time as I surf my favorite blogs and drop in on their Comment sections. Many of these have their “regulars” who engage in spirited debate, and typically the more spirited it gets the less respectful the tone of the commenters back and forth. There are times, I must confess, when funny, inventive and highly personal and derogatory ripostes have wanted to leap through my flying fingers onto the comment page to symbolically gut not only another person’s argument but his very being. Such is the anonymity and immunity of the internet. I have bitten my tongue, or perhaps my fingernails, however to keep from doing so.
When I write for this blog I often have a picture of a composite reader in my head. Not necessarily anyone in particular but someone who is obviously intelligent and who has good taste or otherwise he or she wouldn’t have stopped by. Having this sense moderates, or modulates, some of what I might type — along with the thought that stuff tends to live forever on the web like so much space junk orbiting the earth. Meanwhile some cosmic gravity will see to it that my least generous, most base and unedifying words will turn up in someone’s Google-search. Therefore my fingernails grow ragged.
Likewise in the various comment sections I always try to remember that there are real people on the other side of those electrons, no matter how cartoon-like their on-screen personas might appear. Therefore, while I may use a clever turn of phrase or pointed observation in responding to their argument, I don’t go personal or suggest that they molest collies. Sometimes I’ll type something inflammatory, take satisfaction from that sparkling eviseration, and then delete it. Whether the person I’m responding to is 5’2″ or 6’5″, if I wouldn’t say it to his/her face, I shouldn’t post it either. Someday I might actually meet that person and if he’s 5’2″ I’ll feel like a heel and if he’s 6’5″ I might get ground under his heel.
And, someday, I just might meet them at church.