In retrospect, which is about the only way one can consider the past, there are many things that I shouldn’t have said, as well as things I wish I had said.  This applies to everyone. Some are very simple things like, “I’ll have the Jicama Chili Sticks.” I really wished I hadn’t said that. I should have said, “I’ll have the cheese enchiladas.”

Will you marry me?” Many people have wished they hadn’t said that. I hear that it is now becoming acceptable for women to say it, so theoretically it could double the number of divorces. I recently said it to a woman many years younger than I, but due to my age, she didn’t think I was serious.

“Where would you like to go for (dinner) (the weekend) (vacation)?” This is a simple question, but only say it if you don’t care where you go. Anyone in a long-term relationship should have learned this by now. If you have a preference, which most people do, it is better to rephrase it to, “Let’s go to…” Similarly, don’t say, “What movie would you like to see?” or “Would you like to see a movie?” Have something specific in mind or take what you get.

Let’s stop at the puppy barn.” I had no way of knowing that it would change my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. But, in retrospect, I’m glad I said it.

There are literally hundreds of pickup lines that guys use, either seriously or humorously, when trolling for women. The only one I can recall using was, “Have you ever been to Africa?” The expected answer was “No,” and then I was going to say, “What a coincidence! Neither have I!” This would humorously have given me something in common with her. However, the one time I tried it, the woman replied, “Why do you ask?” I was caught off guard and unprepared to tell the truth. It had a happy ending for her, but not for me.

Yes, I’d like to go to college.” This was in response to my dad’s query about my going to college. In reality, I had no desire to go to college. I was just finishing twelve years of school, and more school was not on my list of things to do. But I had learned to say what my parents wanted to hear, whether I agreed with it or not, so I went to college. However, I was totally unmotivated and flunked out after three years. I’m not sure how much of my dad’s money I wasted in those three years. I’m sorry Pop. I did finally get a degree nineteen years after my first attempt, but on my dollar and with my motivation.

Here… the two of you can have my seat.” I humorously said this to a woman on a train who appeared to be about eight months pregnant. Never ‘assume’ a woman is pregnant. Keep your mouth shut unless you know that she is pregnant. This woman wasn’t pregnant, even though she looked very pregnant. Surprisingly, I lived to tell about it.

Honesty is not always the best policy. It is always better to be polite than to be honest. In fact, I estimate politeness to be the best policy about 95% of the time. The classic example is when a woman asks, “Do I look fat?” A truthful, but bad, response is, “Do I look stupid.” I’ve found that it is easier to be truthful if you are not in a relationship.

As a college professor, I was asked many times by students, “Is there anything I can do for extra credit?” There were many answers that would run through my head, but only a few of them were appropriate. “No.” was the best answer to use, although I’ve been known to respond to male student requests with, “Do you have a sister?” This is not college-approved humor, and it must be used with caution. If an attractive female student asked me if there was anything she could do for extra credit, I had to be really careful. Even a wrong facial expression could be deadly.

Here is a recent on-line chat with a drop-dead gorgeous 20-year old female student on the day that grades were due. She asked me if there was anyway she could get a higher grade. I could have handled it better, but I was retiring from teaching in a few days, so what the hell. Why not have some fun. These are all fun things that I shouldn’t have said, even though I did know the student well.

Student: “Is there anyway I can get a higher grade.”

Me: “Only if you marry me.”

Student: “Hahaha if it gets me an A. Sure! When/Where is the wedding?”

Me: “This weekend in Vegas. Should I book us tickets and make reservations?”

Student: “Ooo nice choice hahaha I have to convince my parents first.”

Me: “Let me know how that goes. You are old enough to get married without their approval. Tell them it won’t cost them a thing,”

Student: “Hahaha I’m flattered. J what if we went out for food instead? On me!”

Me: “Do you think I’m that easy?” (Attached were flight #’s and times to Vegas.)

Student: “Hahaha noooo but everyone loves good food and good company J

Me: “Vegas has really good food.
I can be very traditional and ask your father for your hand in marriage. Perhaps I can text him.

Student: “I don’t know how my dad would feel about this.”

Me: “I can guess how he’d feel, and I don’t even know your dad.
I don’t think he’d want someone older than he is to marry you.”

Student: “All I’m gonna say is that my dad is a very interesting hardheaded man lol!”

Me: “I guess I’d better meet him before we go to Vegas. Perhaps a dinner for three?”

Student: “Hahaha maybe.”

I gave her a higher grade. No dinner, no Vegas. But she earned it by playing along with my inappropriate comments and being an attentive student. The secret is to know the person well before speaking.

Waitresses have standard phrases they use for customers that seem to bring out the worst in me, and all to frequently have caused me to regret what I said.

  Waitress: “How are you folks making out here?”

  Me: “We are not making out. We are just eating.”

  Waitress: “How is everything?”

  Me: “I don’t know. I didn’t order everything.

  Waitress: “Are you finished with that?

  Me (looking at my empty plate): “I was going to lick it, but then you would want my phone number, and it would just lead to trouble.”

  Waitress (looking at my unfinished dinner): "Do you wanna box?"

  Me: "No, but I'll be happy to wrestle with you."

Kansas State Trooper: “I clocked you at 80 mph in a 55 mph zone.”

Me: “Is that all? I was just trying to get out of this state as soon as possible. How much further is it?” (I think this must have doubled the fine.)

Some things I’ve said to students that could have been said better or probably not said at all:

  • “Reading your paper was like driving to Iowa for a drink of water.”
  • “Your paper was both good and original. Unfortunately, the original part was not good and the good part was not original.”
  • “You were cheating on the exam, and you were terrible at it. You didn’t even attempt to hide the fact, and the person whose paper you kept looking at is dumber than you are.
  • “I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but you have changed my mind.”
  • “As your academic advisor, I recommend that you withdraw from college before you are kicked out.”
  • “I read your last paper, and I’m hoping your next one is shorter.”
  • “There is no heaver burden than a great potential, so you should have an easy life.”
  • “I hope you graduate before I retire.”
  • “If you marry me and we have kids, they can attend college here for free.”

“Why don’t you come visit me in Colorado this summer?”  I tend to say this too often to too many people. Each person is someone I’d like to spend some time with, but often too many of these people have accepted my offers. Consequently, I’ve spent many summers at my Colorado vacation home running what is essentially a bed and breakfast and being a tour guide. Now I’m more selective.

 “I think I’m due for a colonoscopy.” I don’t know why I said this to my doctor. Been there; done that; hated it. In this case I was due for one. Now I no longer mention it. With luck, I’ll never have one again.

Was it as good for you as it was for me?” I said this to the attending nurse after I awoke from my colonoscopy. She replied: “I had a different perspective.

“When you check my prostate, would you use two fingers.” This was supposed to be a humorous line to my urologist. I expected him to ask why. My reply would have been, “I’d like a second opinion.” However, my urologist just looked at me strangely and slowly said, “Okay."

One May I was about to leave for my annual three-month summer vacation in Colorado, and my girlfriend was not happy about it. She said, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t be leaving me for three months.” I mistakenly replied, “I’ve been spending my summers in Colorado for the last 17 years. Colorado has always been there for me. Women have not.” Sure enough, she wasn’t.

Is something bothering you?” Don’t say this unless you really want to know. In fact, never ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer.

I can fix that.”  Men in particular tend to believe they can fix things that they can’t. I’ve only fixed about half the things I said I could fix.

I spent a month in Paris once.” I said this to an exchange student from France. She asked me when I was there, and I told her. She replied, "That was before I was born."

“I don’t drink, so I’ll just have the punch.” This was at an outdoor party where the hostess offered me a drink. The punch was spiked but I didn’t know it. Later, my college roommate took me to a truck stop to sober me up, and I threw a pickle at a state trooper in the next booth. Fortunately I missed.

“I’ll be glad to help you move.”  Like many people, I tend to volunteer for things I really don’t want to do, just to be polite and helpful. One time this simple statement led to me loading all of a young woman’s possessions into my pickup truck and driving them from the East Coast to Colorado, where I had to transfer it all to her father’s truck. She was not with me.

Will you review my taxes?” I had always done my own taxes using TurboTax, but a professional ‘tax expert’ told me I was probably paying too much.  He reviewed my forms, lowered my taxes by $4 and charged me $178.

“I love you.”  This is definitely said too often when it is not true, and not often enough when it is true. I’m guilty of both.

When I’m with a group of people, be it at parties or out to dinner, I tend to be a listener rather than a talker. Occasionally someone will ask me why I’m so quiet. One of the reasons is that the less I say, the less I will regret. Another reason is that I already know the things I would say, so I learn nothing by saying them.

Years ago I took to heart a well-known poem about a wise old owl that my father loved to tell us kids. But there have been many times when I was not so wise.

The Wise Owl

The wise old owl
Sat in an oak.
The more he saw,
The less he spoke.
The less he spoke,
The more he heard.
Why can't we be like
That wise old bird?

Thanks Pop! I wish I had said more to you when you were still around.