“What’s that smell? Bacon… is that.. Maple bacon?”

“Good guess. We had it with breakfast this morning.”

“Eh. I really don’t like maple bacon. Too sweet.”

A distant relative had come by, and as was his custom, he was spreading his own brand of “joy.”

I wanted to say, I wasn’t offering you any maple bacon, pal. Here’s your hat; what’s your hurry?

Making the most minute small talk the world had ever known, I offered this original bon mot:

“Nice weather today.

“Not really; too cold for me,” he countered.

You see, I was visiting with a Genuine, Bona-fide, Dyed-in-the-Wool Contrarian.

No matter what you might say, his modus operandi is this: to disagree. To show you these two indisputable facts of life: he’s right. You’re wrong.

Seeing my copy of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” on the table, he said “Oh, you’re reading that? Why didn’t you ask me? You could’ve borrowed my copy.”

Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Anytime I want to buy a book, find a recipe, or look in the dictionary, I’ll put Mr. Know-it-All/Dr. No (perhaps Dr. No-it-All?) on speed dial. “Do you have this book? Do you know how to knead dough? Is there an “h” in maharaja(h)?!?” I’ll ask, in a frenzy.

All sorts of things run through my mind when faced with someone who wants to tell me what I ought to know (but obviously don’t). Over time, I’ve learned to keep a lid on those uncivilized thoughts.

What I usually say is, “Drop us a line now and then. We’d like to know how you’re faring.” What I don’t add is, “Because we’d like to know it from afar!”

In days past, I would suffer through such obligations on a regular basis, but now it’s very rare. Think of this: what if they dread the visit as much as you do? What if we’re all doing what’s expected and not a one of us gets anything positive out of it?

I’ve learned two things that I’d like to leave you with:

  1. Life is short, unless you’re sitting with Dr. No-it-All and he’s brought pictures of his Sales Conference in Vegas.
  2. Discretion is the better part of valor.
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