By Larry Teren
Recently the radio newscaster played a soundbite from a long forgotten movie and then announced in a funereal voice that the actress Jane Russell had passed away at the age of eighty-nine. The usual response when one hears that is “well, she lived a long life and probably had a good one with all the creature comforts.” Except that when you are in your late eighties, you think the guy who is ninety-nine is old and that you would like to live at least until one hundred and three.
Another thought such an announcement conjures up is: “I didn’t know that she was still alive.” You know- out of sight, out of mind. A corollary to this is “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you.” Of course this flies in the face of the other axiom that it is safer and more comforting to look back than forward because you can control what has already transpired but not the yet unexpected. But, then again, Satchel Paige, the ageless ballplayer, years ago said, “don’t look back or something or someone may be gaining on you.”
Sometimes you hear someone died and you give this reaction:”I didn’t know (fill in the missing blank) was even sick!”
Other ‘I didn’t know’s: A cop stops a person in the City of Chicago for driving with one hand holding a cellphone to his ear. The perpetrator says, “I’m from out of town. I didn’t know that it is illegal to do that here. Where I come from it is allowed. Could you give me a break?” Putting aside the old adage of “ignorance is no excuse for the law”- why should anyone be allowed to drive with that type of distraction going on? I’ve too often been driving behind someone who is going 35mph in a 45mph zone because they are yakking on the phone. If I was the cop, and I heard the lame excuse of being from out of town, I’d a pulled the gun out of my holster right there and shoot them a few times telling the judge and jury later that the perpetrator was resisting arrest.
Or how about the person at the deli who doesn’t bother to take a number and tries to bud in the horizontal line and get waited on long before his turn? You tell them that he or she needs to take a ticket like everyone else and he says, “oh, I didn’t know that.” That’s when you wish all law abiding citizens were allowed to carry taser guns.
Or the idiot who is in the car directly in front of you who is sitting at a red light with his right turn blinker on. There is no cross-path traffic to the left but he is content to wait out the light because he is too stupid to see that the sign reads “NO TURN ON RED EXCEPT WHEN NO PEDESTRIANS”. You honk and you honk and there is no movement. After the light changes to green and you both have made your turns onto a two lane road in each direction, you speed up to pull along his side, roll down the window and ask the grammar school sign-reading flunky why he didn’t turn earlier when the opportunity showed itself . He replies, “Oh, I didn’t know” and then shrugs his shoulders. And then you make sure he understands your sign language by adding sound to your expression of contempt.
Every once in a while I make a worthwhile discovery. I learned that it doesn’t hurt to mention to the grease monkey at the quick oil change place that the price they want to charge for cleaning my car’s fuel injectors is more than I can afford. He then says, “No problem. I’ll give you ten dollars off.” I quickly make the deal. You see, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you don’t know something.