Friday, April 25, 2008

"T-o-o-o-o bad"

When I was four years old, I picked up a new favorite phrase: "Too bad." Whenever I saw something bad happen to someone I'd say "Too bad." But I had a special way of saying it. If a another kid tripped and fell down, I'd say "T-o-o-o-o bad" in a singsong voice. A kid falls off his bike: "T-o-o-o-o bad." A kid gets hit in the nose by a ball: "T-o-o-o-o bad."

I thought this was an excellent way of expressing sympathy, because if someone falls down, or falls off her bike, or gets hit in the nose, well that really is too bad. So I said so. Often. Loudly. "T-o-o-o-o bad."

I didn't realize that people were taking it differently from the way I meant it. Until one day Johnny, another kid from the neighborhood, was riding his skateboard down the big slope into the parking garage under our apartment. (OK, it was probably just a little slope, but when you're four years old, every slope is a big slope.) He was pretty good at riding his skateboard. But he wasn't all that good at stopping his skateboard, because BAM! he crashed right into a parked car at the bottom of the slope.

Johnny was a couple of years older than me, and I really admired him. I wanted to be his friend. So as he slowly extricated himself from the crumpled pile of boy and skateboard halfway under the car's rear bumper and stood up, knees skinned and head bumped, I expressed my sympathy. "T-o-o-o-o bad."

Johnny glared at me. "It's not funny," he said.

Wha--?

He started to limp away. "It really hurts."

Huh? But that's why I --

He looked back over his shoulder as he limped up the slope. "Stupid."

I stopped saying "T-o-o-o-o bad" after that.

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