DISCLAIMER:The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Calhoun Times.
The question is “Why did he steal the bus?”
That question will be given attention shortly. First, I want us to think about how often we use expressions or say things that are illogical, unreasonable or don’t even come close to conveying the intended message.
You have heard or read the story of the man who stole a school bus in Calhoun. The bus and the man were found not long after the theft.
A natural question is why anyone would want to steal a bus. I have driven school buses quite a few miles during my days and it was always a pleasure to finish runs and trips, get in your own car and drive with ease.
Then, the natural logical question is, unless you have a family of 20 or more people, what efficiency or productivity does a bus provide.
Reports indicated that his response, when questioned by law enforcement, was, “I stole the bus because the keys were in it.”
With all due respect, he didn’t steal the bus because the keys were in it. The keys being in the bus expedited (look up “expedite" and "expedient" in the dictionary) his intent and actions. The keys simply made it easier to carry out the action.
I have used the space to leap to other expressions of which we all are probably guilty of using. Headlines in news
appears and magazines are notorious of conveying the wrong idea. I will read my writings when the newspaper is published. I wince at awkward expressions, misplaced modifiers and the failure to make sure the subject and verb in a sentence agree in number. There are others and as said before, “I am sure my English teacher, Miss Geraldine Legg, turns over in her grave.” I want to speak to her and tell her I know better. I can hear her rebuke of being careful and taking time to do the job right.
A few summers ago during one of the extreme dry spells, our part of the country was craving for rainfall. Even a cloud was a cause to celebrate. Finally, a shower fell over Northwest Georgia. The headlines of an article in a newspaper (I don’t remember which one), in bold type, stated “Rain of no benefit.”
My inward response to that statement was “Yes, it did.” What the headline and the article failed to discuss was the degree of benefit. It might not have been much. The rainfall was better than none at all. The article would have done well to discuss how much better a greater amount of rainfall would have benefited.
The above discussion about “benefit” brings to mind an oft-used expression that misses the point entirely.
How many times have you heard someone say, “It isn’t that far?” Or, it wasn’t that much? The headlines could have stated, “It did not rain that much.”
Students in school demonstrated agitation and displeasure toward me when they would come to class late. Upon my marking them tardy, invariable they would declare, “Coach Smith, I wasn’t that late.” Their displeasure was shown when I would answer, “You are exactly that late.”
So it was when someone wanted to tell me where they needed to go or where they lived. They would say, “It isn’t that far.” Again, I would say it is exactly that far.
I realize we all use the same expression usually to denote an amount or degree of insignificance. But, whatever the amount or degree, it is that.
Let me go back to the keys being in the bus. Beginning in the early 1970s I would drive my car to school, find a parking place and leave the keys in my car. One day, my principal and I were disagreeing on a point. He puffed out his jaws and declared that I was letting girls use my car to leave campus at lunch. We were face to face as I angrily told him I had never allowed anyone to go off campus with my car at lunch.
It was years later at a family gathering at my Grandmother Foster’s for a meal we were discussing the false accusation the principal had made back in 1973 and how angry it made me. My niece, Valerie Walraven Jackson, was sitting next to me and with a sudden sly grin she made a revelation. She said, “Jerry, I used your car often and carried a carload of friends to lunch.”
The keys being in the car wasn’t the reason she broke the rules: she was hungry and wanted to leave campus. I also understood why I thought gas was lower in the tank and why I had trouble finding my car in the afternoon. We did not have assigned parking spaces then.