It happens to the best of us. We’re talking to someone, we’re a bit distracted or tired or whatever, and we unintentionally tangle up our words. We mispronounce something, we don’t use quite the right term, we leave a word or two out, we inadvertently add one or two. In most cases it merely garbles up our intended statement forcing us to apologize, give ourselves a shake, and try again. And then there are those times when our accidental minor gaff changes the whole situation into something which comes to haunt us.
I lived in the dorms my first two years of university and among my circle of friends euchre was the game of choice for hangin’ out and killin’ time. One night a small group of us were sitting around playing cards and the idle accompanying conversation turned to grumbling about having to get up earlier than preferred in the morning, a common exchange with university students who promptly become nocturnal creatures the moment they no longer have anyone telling them when to go to bed at night.
Perhaps influenced by the competitive card game the conversation quickly became a contest over who had the most hard-done-by tale of woe. It was assumed the science major with 8:30am labs would likely win but my good friend Bryan had been having trouble with his little in-room bar fridge and had arranged to have maintenance come take a look at it, sadly a ‘first thing’ morning appointment had been his only option.
Thus Bryan intended his contribution to the contest to be…
“Well I got up at seven this morning to the sound of ‘knock, knock, knock, fridge guy’.”
To be fair we were playing our card game in the evening, though not overly late. He’d clearly had an early start to his day before a full roster of classes so perhaps he was feeling a little fatigued. Perhaps it was the distraction of the card game in which he was currently embattled, having once again gone alone with a hand nowhere near strong enough to support it. There could have been countless factors at work but whatever the specific cause his attention was not as tightly focused on his words as it needed to be and one little two-letter word snuck into his statement changing it to…
“I got it up at seven this morning to the sound of ‘knock, knock, knock, fridge guy’.”
Absorbed in his cards he took no notice of the sudden silence which followed until he played the card selected from his hand and turned to find the rest of us staring at him with looks comprised of surprise, wry amusement, and more than a little suggestive smirking.
“What?” he blinked in innocent confusion, looking down at the card he’d played to see if he might have made yet another ‘creative’ choice.
“Uh, Bryan,” I started with amused patience. “Play that last statement back.”
“What?” he blinked again. “I said I got up this morning to ‘knock, knock, knock, fridge guy’.”
“Noooo, not quite. There was an extra word in there…”
“What are you talking about? I said ‘I got it….”
At that point, having accidentally re-added the word, he realized what he had inadvertently said to the group of us. There was a brief flash of ‘Eee ghads!’ in his eyes and he opened his mouth to attempt a defense or retraction but realized it was already far too late. He simply closed his mouth, put his cards down on the table, and very good naturedly endured the ensuing laughter and comments about him having a hitherto unknown fridge fetish, a thing for men in uniform, genitals activated by the clapper, and any other number things we could come up with between belly laughs. We never did finish the card game.
Being the good, kind, and caring friends we were we then proceeded to keep the frivolity alive by looping in our entire circle who then joined us in knocking and announcing ourselves as ‘fridge guy’ any time we went to his room, encountered him in the hallways, passed him outside around campus, and occasionally when calling him on the phone.
Eventually we simplified it all down to just knocking on any available surface when we felt the urge to give him a hard time. He would respond by giving us an appropriately dirty look while flipping us the bird, except for me as I had months before responded to said flipped bird in such a way the it rendered me forever more immune from the gesture. I usually got the dirty look, a sarcastically exaggerated laugh, and occasionally a small object flicked at me.
We enthusiastically maintained the tradition for three years until he graduated but the true culmination of it all came in the second year. Our entire group was all sitting around one of the large circular tables in the cafeteria sharing lunch when a young dark haired student paused as he was about to pass by, looked pensive as if he might recognize one of us, then with a mischievous look aimed directly at Bryan he leaned in and knocked on the table before scooting away.
There were several chuckles and the dirty look began panning around the table. About halfway round shrugs and looks of confusion began to criss-cross between us. A few more glances back and forth greeted with shrugs and shaking heads soon made it clear not one of us seated at the table had any idea who the dark haired youth had been.
“It’s grown beyond us!”
“It has a life of its own!”
“It’s so gratifying to see one’s children grown up big and strong!”
Bryan’s look shifted from disgruntled accusation to epically long-suffering as our jubilations continued, and continued and continued...
UPDATE : Bryan insists people continued to knock at him any time he visited the campus, even several years after he graduated. Whether true or just paranoia it definitely serves to further bolster our collective parental pride.