Most of the things you and I say have the lifespan of that bug that’s born, mates and dies in a single busy afternoon. Well, even though most of our words are destined to be forgotten, we have to be careful with the power of those that survive.
I remember a teacher from long ago and the eleven little words that she spoke one afternoon. She noticed that Virgil (not his real name) was doing the unthinkable: He was "inspecting" the contents of his nose. We were little kids. This was just petty larceny in our circles, but a capital felony in adult eyes. She suspended her lesson and told Virgil to go to the restroom and wash up. She then turned to the class and said, "Somebody open the door for Virgil. He’s got his hands full!"
I’m pretty sure most of us laughed like hyenas. I know I did. "He’s got his hands full!" That image was just too funny for tiny minds weaned on comic books and cartoons. Besides, Virgil was an easy target for our cheap laughter. How he got to the bathroom, I don’t recall. All I remember is the laughter and those eleven words, "Somebody open the door for Virgil. He’s got his hands full!"
I understand the teacher’s concern. No teacher wants a filthy door knob. But the sad thing is that I can’t recall anything else she ever said. It’s been about 40 years and the only memory I have of her is, "Somebody open the door for Virgil. He’s got his hands full!" That’s some legacy. Of course, the cheap shot we offered Virgil is no gift to eternity either: Eleven words and our paint-peeling, scornful laughter. I bet it’s all Vigil remembers of many of us.
To this day, I still feel guilty for laughing at Virgil, but "He’s got his hands full!" was just too priceless to pass up. Maybe it’s just my guilty conscious playing tricks on me, but I can almost see old Virgil snickering too. Most kids know how to appreciate a great line, even if their hands are full and their ears are burning red-hot from embarrassment. Take care Virgil. We both had dirty hands on that sad day, but mine took years to wash clean.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers. He can be reached at email@example.com.