Writing a column for public consumption is fraught with danger.
“Fraught” is not a word used much anymore. I thought I’d try to restore it to some of its former glory although I’m not even sure what it means. Using words of which you’re not sure of the meaning is a rather dangerous practice.
I think it means “full,” as in “full of danger.” Yet you wouldn’t say the young woman was fraught of hormones. Or the clergyman was fraught of the Holy Spirit. Or the politician was fraught of BS. Or vice versa.
Perhaps one can only be fraught with something bad, such as he was fraught of the devil! Or, after that scoff of beer and Jiggs’ dinner he was fraught of gas.
There’s probably good reason fraught has fallen out of favour and I think I’ve found it.
One of the fraughts to which I originally intended to refer has to do with recognition. That is, the fact that what passes for my likeness on these columns becomes fairly well known to all and sundry. It isn’t the “all” that bothers me in most cases, it’s the “sundry.”
I may not have that problem as much anymore. A couple of weeks ago, I gave a speech to several hundred school trustees from across Canada. Big occasion? You might say! Naturally, The People’s Paper was there to record my presence with a snapshot for posterity and anybody else who cares to look at it.
You may have seen it. Other Half’s reaction when she first glimpsed at the picture was predictable.
“I don’t see it myself but I suppose it had to be there.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The fly, of course.”
“Fly? What fly?”
“The fly you’re trying to catch with your mouth.”
OH can border on the sardonic, if not the downright sarcastic at times. This may have been one of those times. Thing is, my mouth in that picture is open, very wide open. I look like I’m trying to catch a small bird, probably a swallow (sorry). OH was kind enough not to point that out.
Sufficient to say it is not a flattering picture.
Some of you have given speeches to groups of people yourselves. You know how difficult it is to speak to large audiences without opening your mouth. There must have been times when my mouth was not open and I wish the picture had been taken during one of those brief moments.
(The caption under the photograph reporting on what I’d said in the speech was totally incorrect but that’s neither here nor there.)
I don’t blame the photographer. He’s been doing that sort of thing for a long time and knows exactly what he’s doing. Nice fellow, actually. At least he told me he is, and he should know.
What I mean to say with all this is that no one is likely to recognize me from that photograph. So my problem with the “sundry” in the “all and sundry” should be minimized. I appreciate that.
I quite like meeting anyone who recognizes me. Frequently, someone will stop by my table in a restaurant and ask if I’m Ed Smith. My response is usually that I’m one of them, there being literally dozens of us in this fair province.
(I’ve often thought I should take a weekend when I’ve nothing much else to do and host a gathering of provincial Ed Smiths. We could have games and social events and at least one special speaker — Ed Smith, of course. There is a risk some Ed Smiths might be socially unacceptable, but I’d have to chance that.)
Then they ask, are you the writer? I truly get off on being called “writer.” But when they say “the writer,” I feel elevated to that honorable and honoured group of gifted and talented people with which this province is fraught — or should that be replete?
To be lumped in with names like Morgan, Johnson, Major, Crummey, Guy and a host of others is like being admitted into heaven.
I admit there are different statuses (stata?) of writers in the province just as there are different classes of beings in heaven — cherubim, seraphim, angels and archangels, among others. I know I’m on the bottom of the heap in both places. But I digress. I really do enjoy meeting people who stop me somewhere, introduce themselves and have a small chat. The “sundries” are something else again. If you’re a “sundry,” I’d just as soon not lay eyes on you.
“Are you Ed Smith?” — I give the usual response.
“Didn’t like that last column, you know.”
I never know what to say to that.
“Oh?” is often as good as it gets. Or sometimes if I’m in the mood, I can expand on that a little.
“Oh? I see.”
I mean, what do you say? Thank you? Sorry? Put it in writing? Bugger off? The last thing you ever ask is “Why?” The main reason is that they usually haven’t a clue what your last column was about and that’s highly embarrassing for both of you. Some, usually the more intelligent type, often put it this way, especially when there are others within earshot.
“I don’t always like what you write.”
Which means they don’t want to be thought of as being as big a fool as I am. I understand that. I don’t want to be thought of as being as big a fool as I am, either, and that’s the truth.
After all that, here’s the bottom line. As long as someone wants to say hello to me — wherever, whenever and however — I’m more than happy to respond as best I can. There’s one thing you can say, however, that will make me happier than a pig in doo-doo.
“You’re a lot better looking than your picture!”
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org