In all my years as a stand-up comic, I’ve never been unable to provide a snappy comeback to a boisterous heckler. Indeed, if you hand them enough rope, they usually end up hanging themselves and making a comic’s life much easier.
“My name is Sapphire!” hollered one young woman, out of the blue, and very much into her cups (as well as nearly falling out of them), during a midnight show in Las Vegas.
“Of course it is.”
“And I’m a stripper!”
“Imagine my surprise.”
“And I make more money than you!”
“I’m sure you do, but tonight, I have your twenty five bucks, so sit down, be quiet, and let everybody else hear the show, OK?”
By that time, the audience, most appreciatively, turned en masse and told her to shut up.
So, it’s no big deal: I’m used to hecklers and, to be honest, I really never encountered that many on a regular basis. I tell you all this because in the last few months, I’ve been been utterly incapable of replying to a woman I see, once a month, during a scheduled day of volunteering for those in need.
Let me be perfectly clear that I enjoy everyone on my route and I don’t think for a second she means to be the least bit cruel, because she’s always smiling when she says it. But on the first Monday of each month, I knock on her door, she opens it, and says, “Boy, you sure are tall.”
“Yep,” I nod, “Yep, I am.”
But it doesn’t end there.
“I mean, you’re really tall.”
Holding my arms out on either side of my body, palms up, I reply, “I dunno what to tell ya. I’ve complained about it but nothing changes.”
“Whew,” she generally ends with, “some kind of tall.”
OK, so there you have it – I’m tall. And she has pointed it out to me every month for over a year now. But here is the strangest thing of all...
She is exactly my height. Possibly, a fraction taller. She opens the door of her neat-as-a-pin house, towering over the stoop, blocking all light emanating from the interior, and says, “Boy, you’re tall.”
I just don’t know what to say to that. It’s like being a redhead and having the comedian Carrot Top go out of his way to approach you, brow furrowed with puzzlement, and announcing, “Boy, your hair is really red.”
A couple of months ago, knowing what was coming, I tried a different approach. As I pulled up to her house, more out of bemusement than anger, when the monthly declaration regarding my height was offered upon opening the door, I countered, “Well, you know, you’re pretty ‘up there’ too, Stretch!” to which she replied, “Yeah, but you’re really tall.”
Annnnd ... I got nothin’. Who wants to get into a “my dog’s bigger than your dog” contest when there’s another 10 meals, cooling off by the minute, to be delivered? Again, I don’t ever think it’s meant to be unkind. I think it’s just a sort of observance, with the honesty of a child, that glances up at a stranger in the check-out line and then proclaims loudly to its mother, “That man sure has a big stomach!” No harm was meant. It’s just something of interest that was noted between implorings for a Kit-Kat or bubblegum.
I just wish, I thought, bracing myself and admitting to a little tension creeping into my shoulders as I turned onto the familiar street, that there might be some other gambit of conversation that could be proffered, for a change.
She must have read my thoughts this month, because as I hopped out of the driver’s seat, she was waiting with the front door already open. With a look of concern, she asked, “Is that truck bad to drive?”
Looking around at my ancient Dodge, I replied, “Well, it’s a long bed, so parking’s a pain. I need a tugboat to pull me into a space at the grocery store,” then laughed at my own joke.
“No,” she said, “I mean, is it bad on gas?”
Relieved that she was showing sympathy in what might be a plight to my well being, I smiled and replied, “It’s a killer. Big ol’ V-10, so awful mileage, but my husband’s got the Hyundai today, so I had to bring the farm truck.”
“Oh,” she said, nodding understandingly and taking her meal. She paused before she closed her door and remarked, “You sure do look tall driving that truck.”
I got nothin’.