I had looked on page 364 of my American College Dictionary to find another definition for 'define' as in, 'there comes in everyone's life a defining moment,' which has gotten to be the most overworked phrase since 'have a nice day.' Everyone uses 'a defining moment' to give credence to everything from the Presidency to a 3-point shot in basketball.
But to my surprise, right before my eyes, the word directly above 'define' was 'defile.' Now we're getting someplace. I would not attempt to guess what the rate of occurrence of 'defining moments' are in anyone's life, but I know that I have had many more 'defiling' moments in my life than 'defining.' If I had had just a little more 'defining' I would not have had so many 'defiling.' But life, according to that great populist poet, J. Sweetpants Goodbody, "regurgitates on your best plates."
So permit me to take the tongue out of my cheek long enough to tell you the story of a friend of mine, Mr. Roy (Little Boy) Hollingsworth. Now, Roy, on his best day, always ran about a quart low and close to 6 degrees off plumb. In other words, Roy was about as sharp as a marble.
Roy, all of his life, had had trouble making ends meet. In fact, Roy was lucky to find just one end, let alone two, to tie together. Because this is mercifully
a short story, I shall spare you the details of Roy's early life, which was exactly the same as his present life anyway. Color him gray from then until today.
Recently, Roy came up to me and said, "I need a defiling moment in my life."
"You mean, a 'defining' moment, Roy," said I.
"In my case, defiling would be the same thing," Roy said.
"True, Roy. So what type of defiling moment do you have in mind?"
"Well, I want to rob a bank. I need cash. Everyone needs cash. I don't need much cash, just enough to take advantage of sale days, stuff like that. And I need you to help me write a note to the bank telling them that I am robbing them. Would you help me write a note, Will? You are so good at that stuff. Huh, Will?"
I looked at Roy and knew that if he could not have a defining moment like other people, he should at least have a defiling moment. Life owed him that much. I told him to meet me in front of the Wildcat National Bank tomorrow and I would give him his note.
Yesterday was now today and I tucked my note into Roy's hand. "Now, Roy, just assume an air of confidence when you walk in. Got that, Roy? Oh, never mind, just go on in. Don't you think you should read
the note first?" Roy waved his head, 'no.'
I thought that I had done a good job on the note, and in Roy's best interest, I tried to be both articulate and brief. You know, business-like. Anyway, here's what the note said:
I left the note unsigned. Better that way. At any rate, I waited outside the Wildcat National Bank for quite a period of time. No alarms, no sirens, and no Roy. I stood at the front entrance and opened the door for a number of older ladies who had parked their white Buick Park Avenues in the handicap zones. Finally Roy came out, a bewildered look on his face, which was the same way he had gone in.
This is to introduce Roy (Little Boy) Hollingsworth. He would like to rob you today. Roy doesn't own a gun, but he did try to make one out of wood and black shoe polish because he saw someone do that in a prison movie once. Unfortunately, he doesn't own any shoe polish, let alone black. An
yway, if you could give him some bills out of your cash drawers, he would be most appreciative. Roy doesn't want anything out of the vault. Don't let him get near the vault because he would only lock himself in.
P.S. Please use small, non-sequential, bills.
P.P.S. If he uses the alias, "Dillinger," do not pay any attention to him. He saw that in a prison movie, too.
He handed me back my note. "I think you should have made this thing sound a little more...ah, omi...omi..."
"Yeah. I just didn't get anywhere at all. Everyone was so busy behind their computers."
I begged an explanation. Roy's story was that he had gone up to a teller named Buffy who took one look at the note and said that requests such as his could only be handled by a full-service banker. So he had to go up to the second floor to a Mr. Cornwall's office. His secretary said that he would have wait but he should feel free to help himself to a Forbes magazine. Not very good pictures, Roy commented. Presently, Mr. Cornwall came out and asked how he could help him. Roy handed him the note. Mr. Cornwall said that the full-service banker who handles rapid disbursements was out of town arranging a merger with 285 other banks and that Roy would have to come back at a later date. But he did give him a ball-point pen and a calendar.
I looked at the calendar. "Well, you can still use it for another three months, Roy."
Roy looked so depressed. So I said, "Look, Roy, I think that you have made a cross-over here. Instead of a defiling moment, you have had a defining moment in your life. You have attempted to rob a big bank in broad daylight, and you did not get arrested by a SWAT team or someone who looked like Bruce Willis. And you got a ball-point pen and a partially used calendar. Not many people can say that. You have defined yourself today, Roy. Yes, you have. Feel better?"
Roy looked at me. "Does that mean that a defining moment comes without much cash?"
"Yes, Roy, in many cases that would be true. Distinguishing yourself does not always mean that wealth will accompany it, particularly at your end of the social scale."
Roy wrote something in the calendar.
"What are you doing, Roy?"
"I'm marking a date in the calendar to come back and rob the bank in 6 months. This very date where I've had a defining moment in my life. If I'm lucky, I might catch the full-service banker in charge of rapid disbursements."
I told Roy that the calendar would be out of date in 6 months. "And, Roy, don't use February 18th. That's President's Day and the bank will be closed."
"Oh, well," Roy said, "the pen doesn't work anyway."
We both went down the street in search of a new definition. Something to recycle perhaps.