<a href=” http://billcrider.blogspot.com/”>Bill Crider</a> is one of those people who upends this whole apple cart about how blogging is a young person’s game. Because Bill is, um, possibly over 30, and yet has an encyclopediac knowledge of pop culture, as his delightful blog establishes.
But, as I head out for book tour, I always liked to revisit a lesson that Bill taught me years ago, with consummate gentleness and consideration. In fact, he didn’t even try to teach me this lesson, which is perhaps the best way to instruct other people.
You, see, Bill comes from Mexia, Texas, a town I covered in my early reporting days. Once, upon encountering Bill and his lovely wife, Judy, at a convention, I told them this old joke about how hard it is to say the town’s name. They laughed appreciatively.
Years later, Bill, in commenting on the DorothyL listserv, mentioned how tired he was wife was of the joke about how hard it is to say Mexia. It was a light bulb moment for me and I wrote Bill and told him as much. Bill, being Bill, apologized, when he had done nothing wrong. He had been a perfect gentleman, laughing politely at a joke he had heard many times.
And this led to the development of the Crider House Rule: If there’s something that people obviously say to someone all the time — don’t say it.
Don’t make fun of people’s names. There’s a guy at the Baltimore Sun named Peter Schmuck. Do you honestly think you can say something, anything, that he hasn’t heard about his name?
Don’t say the obvious thing about people’s hometown, or home states. Recently, I asked the writer Ann Hood, who hails from Rhode Island, “Do people constantly try to sing ‘Rhode Island is Famous For You’ in your presence?” Her sigh said it all. And my question was dangerously close to being in violation of the Crider House Rule. Acknowledging the obvious, even in commiseration, is still acknowledging the obvious.
At the same time, I use Bill and Judy, who laughed so politely at a joke they had heard so many times, as my role model. Which is to say: If I smile and laugh when someone observes that I have a wretchedly bad signature — yep, I’m playing by the Crider House Rule.
Meanwhile, if I could go back in time, I’d tell the Criders about how Limestone County helped to form a vivid — and disturbing — image of Central Texas the very day I arrived there.
What question/statement/observation could you happily go the rest of your life without hearing ever again?