In the late 1970s, I was a fool. I married the wrong woman and worked hard to get ahead.
In the early 1980s, I regained my sanity. I divorced my wife and escaped the rat race.
I owned a house, with a pool, before the marriage. After the divorce, my ex-wife owned a house and I had peace of mind.
I spent the next couple of decades trying to get my life together once again.
This included spending seven years bumming around the Arizona desert prospecting for gold, nine months back in L.A. doing computer contracts, a couple of years in the Arkansas hills writing four novels, doing rural field work for a data collection company in Chicago for a year, 10 months in Memphis doing a Y2K computer contract, working on the 2000 U.S. Census, six years teaching college computer courses and seven years writing a newspaper column.
Several years ago, I finally made it.
I once again owned my own home, paid cash, on 8 acres, with no neighbors, in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, where life is peaceful and time stands still.
So after I settled in, I sat on my back deck, watching the squirrels frolicking, beaming with pride that I had finally accomplished my goal of being free.
But I soon realized I had spent so much time and energy trying to reach this point that there was still something missing in my life. Not long thereafter, I started an on-line e-mail correspondence with a woman from my distant past that I had once admired.
We were in the same class in high school back in Minnesota but had never met. She had contacted me after a mutual high school friend sent her one of my newspaper columns.
We were cruising along just fine, getting to know each other, phone conversations, exchanging photos.
Then it happened.
I mentioned in one of the e-mails that I had been busy that afternoon creating a syllabus for a new class I would be teaching during spring semester at college. I even included a list of many of the categories that made up the syllabus. I presumed it would be of mild interest to her.
The following day, I received a rather abrupt, terse message in return whereby she made it clear she was well aware of the function of a syllabus, then referred to me as a “pedantic condescending hermshot.”
I didn’t know if that was good or bad but the entire note, what little there was of it, had a clear tone of anger to it.
Being a fairly normal male humanoid trapped on a planet half populated by humanoids of the female persuasion, many of whom tend to be slightly ditsy on occasion for no particular reason, my first reaction had to do with the possibility of a chemical imbalance and/or hormonal disturbance.
Next, I checked the original e-mail message I had sent her, but remained baffled. It seemed harmless to me.
I looked up the word “pedantic” in the dictionary. It means “too narrowly concerned with scholarly matters” or being overly scholastic. Since I didn’t know what the word meant in the first place, it was obvious proof that I wasn’t pedantic after all.
I also looked up the word “hermshot” but couldn’t find it.
So I wrote an e-mail back, explaining that my vocabulary didn’t include the word “pedantic” thereby eliminating it as a proper adjective to use when describing me. I also stated that I couldn’t find the word “hermshot” in my dictionary and would kindly like an explanation of the entire phrase.
The next day, I received an e-mail, much more relaxed in tone, explaining that she had been angry at the entire male species the day she wrote the original message and that her cat often prances across her keyboard when she’s typing. She went on to explain that she meant to call me a “pedantic condescending hotshot” but the cat must have messed up the last word in the phrase, hence the word “hermshot.”
What a relief. Here I was all in a dither over being called a pedantic condescending hermshot when there was such a reasonably logical explanation.
It all made perfect sense -- I was being punished for being a member of the male species and a cat had written part of the note. It was all so obvious I was almost embarrassed I didn’t figure it out in the first place.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized she was really paying me a compliment.
Pedantic means scholarly, condescending implies a position of superiority and a hotshot is someone who is talented.
She was basically telling me that I was a learned superior talent. But rather than convey her true feelings, she snarled at me in a pedantic and condescending manner.
She may have been snarling angrily on the surface, but subconsciously she was subtly implying that she admired my scholarly talents and distinct superiority.
As soon as I figured out the dynamics of her subconscious thought process, it became apparent how deeply she felt about me.
A pedantic condescending hermshot indeed -- it’s not every day I receive such lavish praise. She’s clearly attracted to me but unable to express it properly, probably in fear of rejection.
Then again, perhaps an angry snarl is just an angry snarl.
So once again I sit on my back deck, a pedantic condescending hermshot, waiting patiently for my soul mate to show up and put me out of my misery.
If I had any brains, I'd be content watching the squirrels frolic.
Quote for the Day – "Always do what's next." George Carlin
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and an imaginary girlfriend named Tequila Mockingbird.