Sunday, July 22, 2007

Esprit D'escalier

Have you ever thought of a great comeback to say to someone, but it's too late to use it?

That, my friends, is what is known as an esprit d'escalier. FRom the French, it's a remark that occurs to someone later, after it should have been used. It is usually a witty retort that comes to one after the moment to use it has passed.

Case in point: Today while I was in the supermarket to pick up the usual sundries that always seem to run out at the most inappropriate times, i.e., bread and milk, I was faced with a familiar obstacle. You've seen them, those inconsiderate idiots who with a full shopping cart begin unloading their groceries at the register clearly marked "Express Lane: 10 Items Or Less." It is they who would berate you if you had 11 items!

I, and the lady behind me, also with but two items, said nothing but in turn each rolled our eyes and shrugged in disgust. I can only wonder how many children or elderly persons she may have mowed down to get to that open register before anyone else.

The girl at the register who was perturbed also, chose to say nothing but dutifully began ringing up the lady's haul. Then I spied that dreaded coupon purse. Do I really need to state the obvious that only after the last item had been scanned did she start to finger through the coupons? Do I need to further add the fact that half of them were expired, or that half of the remainder were for a different size or count, and some were a different product other than what she purchased?

The girl at the register could actually speak! "Ma'am it would be a lot easier if you have your coupons ready before you come to the registers." The lady looked at her with the old evil eye and only grunted. The Boy Scouts have a motto, "Be Prepared," but I guess this lady could be excused as she was certainly no boy. Another adage, however, could have applied next: "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." How would you like to handle those coupons as she methodically sorted through them one at a time, licking the tip of her finger each time?

It came as no surprise to the clerk, myself and the lady behind me when she announced that she had forgotten to give the girl her store courtesy card, which would discount any items that were on sale.

She turned to me and said, "Isn't it terrible how slow and inexperienced these kids are they put on the registers?"

I shrugged and tried to exercise some restraint and replied, "Well, this is supposed to be an express lane."

She glared at me and said, "Look here you, I didn't come in here to be insulted!"

Later back at the house, I contemplated the whole incident. It crossed my mind that it could be fodder for a post here but discounted it altogether. After all it was by no means a unique experience. Chances are that nearly everyone who reads this has probably dealt with the same situation.

I chose the name of my Blog, "It Occurred To Me," because it would suggest that I had been thinking about such happenings out there in the real world and then committed those experiences to this forum.

So it was today that it occurred to me that I had missed a golden oppurtunity for a good comeback to that deserving lady in the store. Alas, I didn't react or think of it at the time. Can you say, esprit d'escalier ?

Through the magic of my blog, I'm going to roll back the clock. I'm going to reset that moment in time - and you are there!
Lady: "Isn't it terrible how slow and inexperienced these kids are they put on the registers?"

Mike: "Well, this is supposed to be an express lane."

Lady: "Look here you, I didn't come in here to be insulted!"
(It is here that I will insert my comeback.)
Mike: "Where do you usually go?"
I think that most of you will find what I should have said appropriate. That brings to mind another French term that is fitting: esprit de corps, which is a group spirit which is shared by those in the same group (fellow bloggers).

Anyone think of better comebacks than the one I should have used? Have you any esprit d'escalier moments you'd like to share?



Jack K. said...


Scarlet said...

Good one. I would've said something like, "OK then, get out!"

Duke_of_Earle said...

Mike, I think you missed your opportunity at the FIRST question, "Isn't it terrible how slow and inexperienced these kids are they put on the registers?"

I might have been tempted to say something in French which, loosely translated, could be rendered, "Well, at least they try to teach them to read. I'll bet SHE knows that the sign up there says "Express Lane: 10 items or less."

Another possible translation of what I might have said would probably be unprintable, even on YOUR blog. The paraphrase would be, "Inconsiderate lout!" You get the idea.