Commentary

Snow: Of brevity, birth pain and other March detritus

March 9, 2013 

Like a ray of sunshine, they came into the downtown restaurant out of a cold, rainy night.

Dressed in sleeveless dresses with hems nearer the navel than the knees, the two girls, apparently high schoolers, were very pretty. Many eyes followed them as they moved around the crowded restaurant. I looked for chill bumps but saw none.

When I mentioned the incident to a friend, he said, “They were sending a message.”

“And what was message?” I asked.

“The message was ‘We’re young, alive, pretty, happy and immortal.’ ”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the restaurant remembering George Burns crooning: “I wish I was 18 again, and going where I’ve never been.”

Brevity a blessing

In the recent column on public speaking, I neglected to point out that an ingredient of a good speech is brevity. Do you know anyone who has ever complained that a speech was too short?

I’ve been re-reading “For 2¢ Plain,” an old but fascinating volume by the late Harry Golden, Charlotte author and publisher of “The Israelite” newspaper in the 1950s.

In one essay, Golden reminds us that Abraham Lincoln was not the main speaker when he delivered the Gettysburg address in November 1863.

Instead, Sen. Edward Everett , considered the greatest speaker at the time, was the main attraction.

Everett spoke for almost two hours. Consulting notes scribbled on a scrap of paper, Lincoln spoke for eight minutes.

The reviews were interesting:

The Harrisburg Patriot and Union’s critic wrote: “Let us pass over (the president’s) silly remarks.”

The Chicago Times: “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwattery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out as the President of the United States.”

Even the correspondent for The London Times panned Lincoln’s efforts: “Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce.”

The Chicago Tribune got it right: “The dedicatory remarks by President Lincoln will live forever in the annals of man.”

Gimme five!

I was having a cup of joe at my usual hangout when a young mother walked past our table, followed by an adorable little guy just learning what his legs are for.

He gave me a wide grin, which encouraged me to hold out my palm and say “Gimme five!”

He responded with a lusty slap against my palm and toddled on.

I thought how “Gimme five!” has become the universal password to friendship with children even as young as babes in arms.

Would that more nations’ leaders were inclined to high-fiving than missile rattling and waging war.

Womb envy

I recently read a magazine article about men who suffer from “womb envy,” a feeling of inadequacy and being unfulfilled because they’ve never given birth.

How does a shrink treat such an ailment? Just one stint in a hospital labor room should permanently cure “womb envy” in males.

The item reminded me of the story of a fellow who ended up on a psychiatrist’s couch. Asked why he was there, the man replied, “Doc, I have no idea. My wife made me come.”

“Surely, you have some idea,” the doctor persisted.

“Well, the only thing I can think of might be my craving for pancakes.”

“I see nothing remiss about liking pancakes,” the doctor replied. “ I, too, am very fond of pancakes.”

“You are?” said the patient excitedly. Then, looking all about, he said, conspiratorially, “That’s great! Come over to my house any time. I’ve got trunks full of ’em in the attic!”

Local love

In response to the column item on analogies, Nancy Tidwell shares this: “The pseudo analogies in your column brought back a 40-year-old memory from my early years in rural Alabama. A boy who wanted to date me explained to my brother, ‘I am sweeter on your sister than a hog is on city slop.’ ”

Oops

Thanks to Chapel Hill reader Barbara Mathias, who noted – correctly – that the U.S. Postal Service is self-funded, not taxpayer-funded. The USPS hopes to save $2 billion by ending Saturday delivery later this year.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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