Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Columnist Ellen Goodman is one of my favorite writers, and one of her columns many years ago changed my life. Well, I don’t know that it exactly did that, but it certainly made me think about her often. Here’s what happened and why I bring it up today.

As nearly as I can remember, she had driven up to a curbside mail box to post a bunch of letters on her way to work. One letter on the bottom of the pack had failed to find its way into the slot, so when she let go, the letter dropped in the gutter, necessitating her getting out of car to retrieve it. In frustration, she said “Oh S---! Her column that day was on saving such outbursts for the really important things and not using them for minor glitches. As I was reading the column I kind of got red around the ears because I was guilty of that same problem. I decided that day I would save that particular Bad Word for the really big stuff and stop using it for every little thing. And for the most part I’ve been successful.

When I first get to the computer each morning I play one game of “Snood,” which is nothing more than aiming a little shooter at funny faces on the screen and hoping that in eliminating the right ones I get a high score. This morning early (5 a.m. to be exact) I was blithely knocking down the little faces when I totally misjudged my aim and immediately went down to defeat. Oh S---! I said. And Ellen Goodman’s face loomed into my vision and her column ran through my brain and I was ashamed of myself.

When I was a kid, my sis and I were threatened with having our mouths washed out with soap if we said a Bad Word. My dad cussed up a storm and I’m sure mother didn’t want us to pick up his bad habits. I never, ever heard my mother utter a swear word and, in fact, she not only had swear words on her “Bad Word” list but also words like “pregnant,” “breast,” and “butt, and "ass," among others. But this morning it was not a bar of soap that came to my mind when I let slip that little epithet. No, it was Ellen Goodman and her column.

Snood is a good game. It is short and sweet and by setting the game level low enough I have a decent chance of winning. But I do think that Snood, like the mail box mishap, is not really an important enough reason to use up one of my Bad Words.

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