The first draft of anything is rough. Ernest Hemingway’s terminology was certainly more colorful, but I prefer to look at the first draft as an unpolished stone in search of a rock tumbler. And in the same way writing improves with a pair of rolled-up sleeves and a good editing pencil, our thoughts revise our responses to situations with the broad stroke of time. And sometimes—maybe most times—that revision is what we wish we’d said.
To the gentleman from the restaurant the other night . . .
Let me back up. We were eating at one of our favorite establishments, known for its sophistication and quiet setting. Three people sat at the adjacent table: a man, his wife, and his mother. During the course of dinner, my nosy self couldn’t help but notice how attentive the husband was to his wife, how he helped her choose her meal by going through each item on the menu.
Several times during dinner, his wife got up and scurried to the restroom. Once, upon her return, instead of finding her usual seat, she appeared at our table with a huge grin and arms outstretched in an “I’m here” gesture.
“Hi, how are you?” I said. As I spoke, the husband was already pulling his wife back to their table with his gentle voice, “Over here, honey. Over here.” Almost in the same breath, he apologized to us and thanked us.
“No problem,” I said.
Later I overheard the husband giving someone from the wait staff an update on his wife’s condition during one of her many trips to the restroom. Dementia . . . Going for another evaluation . . .
Now that I’ve had time to reflect, here’s what I wish I’d said instead of my lame “no problem” first draft. “There’s no need to apologize. And I should be thanking you for showing a level of caring for your spouse that makes me want to pull my loved ones a little closer. Please don’t be discouraged. Don’t let your wife’s friendliness keep you from enjoying nights out together.”
Oh for a pause button so my mind’s first draft can go through several revisions before I open my mouth.
So what’s your story? Ever wished for that magical speed-editing brain function to tweak those verbal first drafts?
Image: Scott Webb scottweb.me