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Don’t spray it in your eye. February 18, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben stopped at our tiny local bank this afternoon to return a survey about how the bank’s customers felt it was doing. In return for handing back the completed survey, we were promised “a small gift.” I was hoping for a dog biscuit for our black German shepherd, Shiloh, a treat the tellers often hand out when we bring her by. (Yes, the bank encourages people to bring in their dogs, and the tellers know them all by name.)

But this time, it was a tiny package of hand sanitizer that appeared to be an atomizer. “Don’t spray it in your eye,” the teller said as I left.

“Don’t spray it in your eye.” This struck our friend Ben as one of those seemingly innocuous but actually profound comments on the human condition: words to live by. I immediately imagined it as a family motto, emblazened on a shield or crest much like those other chivalric mottos, “In truth, justice,” “Let us be viewed by our actions,” “Rather by skill than by force,” “Fail not the king,” and “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (“Shame be to him who evil thinks of it”), the motto of England’s Order of the Garter.

Picture it: Our friend Ben bravely taking the field against the likes of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, my banner defiantly flapping in the wind as I lower my visor, spur my horse into the lists, and begin to aim my lance. Ivanhoe’s motto, “Death before defeat,” wavers a bit as he takes in my own motto. “Don’t spray what in your eye?!” he shouts, bemused, above the roars of the crowd. “This, varlet!” our friend Ben bellows, tumbling Ivanhoe off his horse and into the dust with a skilled lance-thrust, which sprays dust in his mouth and nose as well as his eyes.

Centuries pass. Our friend Ben finds myself in the court of Francois I of France, arch-rival of the arch-pig Henry VIII of England and patron of that greatest of all masters of art, Leonardo Da Vinci. “Lord Ben, I find myself wondering about the meaning of your unusual motto,” the king murmurs over a banquet of lark’s tongues in aspic. “Don’t spray what in your eye?” “Why, paint, of course, Majesty,” I reply. “Look what happened to Leonardo just last week! He still can’t see well enough to finish ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’.”

More centuries fly by, and before you know it, there’s our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, at his printing press. Strolling into his shop, a Tory grandee drawls, “I say, Franklin! What is the meaning of that sign you have on the wall yonder? Don’t spray what in your eye, pray?” “Printer’s ink, milord,” Ben replies blandly, at the same time discreetly tripping a passing apprentice so an entire bucket of ink flies into the eyes and douses the face and clothing of the unfortunate gentleman. “Dear, dear, see what I mean? Well, I suppose you can’t see, at least, at the moment. But look on the bright side, at least it’s not tar and feathers. They’re so much harder to get off!”

Eventually, the Victorian era rolls around. Our friend Ben is surprised when the door of his London eatery bangs open, letting in a blast of frigid air, a bellow of “Bah! Humbug!!!” and the cold, crabby figure of one Ebenezer Scrooge. “What’ve ye got to eat, and what will it cost me?” Scrooge demands, piercing me with an icy stare. “And what’s that sign hanging over the bar, there? Don’t spray what in your eye?!” “The milk of human kindness, in your case, Mr. Scrooge,” I answer. “You might find that it causes hallucinations, even ghostly apparitions, interrupting your sleep and causing profound behavioral abnormalities.” “What’s that ye say? Bah, humbug! Keep your apparitions to yourself, I’ll head home and have some gruel instead.” The icy blast that follows Scrooge on his way seems to warm the taproom as the fire leaps up.

Finally, we reach the present day. Our friend Ben is trying to explain to Silence Dogood why I’ve ordered a custom-designed T-shirt emblazoned with the logo “Don’t spray it in your eye.” “Ben, are you insane?!” Silence demands, and not for the first time. “Don’t spray what in your eye, contact lens solution?” “It’s my family motto,” I mutter, defiant.

“I think I’ll go out and run a few errands,” Silence finally says, still eyeing me warily. “When I come back, either that pathetic motto will be gone or you will be.” Oh.

“What do you think of some alternatives?” I ask, brightening. “How about ‘Don’t eat that! I’m saving it for supper!’ Or maybe ‘Don’t touch that or you’ll break it’?” “What do you think of this as a motto: ‘Shut up or I’ll kill you!'” Silence snaps, heading out the door. “I’m not kidding, Ben…” follows her out into the night.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll order a pair of his’n’her T-shirts. Mine will say “Don’t spray it in your eye.” And Silence’s will bear her own motto, “I’m not kidding, Ben!” Of course, maybe that would go over better if I wrote it up in Latin…

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