Wednesday, July 27, 2011


What's the good word?

Today marks the second installment of an exploration into the power of words, for better or worse.

And as of today, unfortunately, there will be a few less good words to go around. Rick Kaminski, also known to generations of Seattle Mariner fans as "Rick, the Peanut Man," has died. Mr. Kaminski, after debuting during the Mariners' inaugural 1977 baseball season, quickly achieved legendary status. His laser guided peanut bag throws from several rows away formed a deadly combination with his comedy one-liners to distract even the most stalwart of baseball fans from the field's happenings.

After firing a behind-the-back peanut missile to a supposedly ready fan, Rick would traverse the steps to collect his money and offer a good-natured ribbing to the fan who had just watched a bag of hot nuts ricochet off his or her sternum.

"Now I see why you're watching the game and not playing it."

"Was someone just up here selling Butterfingers?"

He had million of them...and they were all good.

I've been thinking about how often we just toss words out there, how we're trained from toddlerhood to control our bladders and bowels, and although I can't remember having a diaper pinned over my mouth, I've certainly had times when a compulsive outburst could have been well served by the muffled silence of an oral nappy.

It's understandable that people, especially when nervous, will say just about anything to avoid silence; they use more fillers than the folks at Veggie Burger. But let's face it, even though no one really cares what you're doing this weekend, or what you did last weekend, what else is there to say to someone you barely know while waiting for the elevator?

How about nothing?

"Any big plans for the weekend?"

I love the term "big plans." From now on, I'll just volunteer the information prior to being asked. My dentist loves to ask this question, so I think next time, I'll just break the ice by saying, "Guess what? I've got big plans this weekend. But they're secret. Do you mind if I quickly use your cool sucking tube? My cat sat on this sweater earlier and all the fur is a little, you know, embarrassing. Ha."

Have you ever arrived a couple of minutes early for a meeting and there's one person, with whom you're vaguely familiar, sitting alone at a conference table? I have.

In the future, I'm going to spare that person the discomfort of sparking a mundane discussion. I will begin with, "Wow, I left fifteen minutes early just to use the restroom. Sure, I was bankin' on a rough go, but fifteen minutes worth? How are you?"

Or maybe, "Looks like we're both early. Hope it's not affecting your marriage the way it is mine. How's it going?"

Parties, picnics and barbecues are also breeding grounds for melancholy discussion, as we often discover ourselves penned into a corner with a heretofore utter stranger. I've occasionally excused myself from these situations by refreshing my drink or finding my children, but next time I might try, "What do you say we get out of here and grab some Cambodian takeout? Where are you going? I thought you didn't have children."

Words are so powerful, yet so cheap, so I'm challenging you...and avoid the small talk. It won't be easy, but let's either serve up a hearty platter of substance or nothing at all.

And rest in peace, Rick Kaminski.

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