Bagel Cats and Other Blunders

Sometimes the inner monologue escapes like a rabid monkey out of a zoo cage.

This is what I tell people who look at me quizzically when I’m expounding on a subject I’m excited about. As Spiderman said, this is my gift, this is my curse. Sometimes, in conversation, my mouth is running at a sprint while my mind is a few miles back like a dazed jogger saying, “hey, wait up– and where on this green earth are you going, anyway?!”

I compare these mind-mouth disconnects to highway hypnosis, which is when you suddenly, and sickeningly, realize that you don’t remember driving the last 39 miles even though you’re holding the steering wheel of a one-ton vehicle. This can also happen when you read books; you may slip into a trance-like state, watching the words drift by like passing seagulls, and then–shazam– you don’t remember chapters three through 12.

Today I’ve been pondering, specifically, what causes us to mentally check out for a moment when we’re communicating. I can conjure up a dozen reasons– excitement, love, hormones, nervousness, lack of sleep, passion, distractions, and expired eggnog are just some of them. I think that I even have a good idea what caused the following blunder today. But I question how, exactly, some of these verbal slip-ups come about. Some are not merely Freudian slips.

A coworker said that she saw a beautiful red cat with black spots. I asked various questions about the flamboyant feline, determined to find out which breed of cat it was. I finally said, “a bagel cat.” To myself, I’m thinking, “what the heck did I just say?!” but the mouth was already trying again: “a bagel cat.” “Good heavens,” said my intellectual side, “are you really that inept?” Take three: “a bagel cat.” I hardly eat bagels! What was so important about the stinking bagel component?

And what was SO difficult about this word that I could not enunciate it properly?! I could feel my cheeks warming as if I’d just opened an oven to stick a toothpick in the pumpkin pies. Notes to self: slow down. Breathe. Say it like you speak the English language. Speak with purpose. Was there a fat chartreuse crayon lodged in my right sinus preventing me from forming a “n” sound?

“A Bengal cat.”

Yes! There it was. A Bengal, those exotic house cats that are always featured on Animal Planet. My cousins had them. BEN-GAL CATS. See, that wasn’t so hard, self. Pat on the back. Now you’ve proven to your coworkers that your tongue really wasn’t under the temporary control of an alien entity even though your lips morphed into puddling purple Play-Doh for a moment.

This reminded me of a time when I answered the front counter of the police department I worked at. A man asked me where he was supposed to drop his utility bill. There was a mailbox outside, so he needed to walk out there and drop it in the mailbox. It couldn’t be more simple, right? But I told this poor guy to go outside and put it in the meckabuck … (**??!!).

Now my brain instantly elbowed me and said, “what the heck’s a meckabuck?” But I kept my ambivalent civil servant face on and fervently hoped that the man understood the mangled wreckage that just emanated from my vocal cords. “Come on,” I tried to tell myself. “Meckabuck sounds enough like mailbox that he should comprehend the communication. It’s easy, dude, just go outside and put your money in the big metal meckabuck.”

He must have thought that I’d inadvertently inhaled something in the evidence room.


Excitement can cause “meckabuck” moments. I once answered the phone at the police department to hear a woman screaming, “THASASKIWWAUNDAMAHLAWCHAW!!!”

(Civil servant voice) “Ma’am, I can’t understand what you’re saying. Would you please repeat that?”


“Ma’am, are you okay? I need you to speak more slowly so that we can understand the emergency and send help.”


“Okay, so what is the squirrel doing?”

“Its chippinatmahitsmad!”


“It’s chirping at me.”

“Is the squirrel threatening you in any manner?”

“YES!” (she was talking more slowly now). “Itwon’tletmeoutofmylawnchair.”

“The squirrel won’t let you out of your lawn chair.”

“Yes. Sendanofficer.”

“Have you tried to run inside?”

“It won’t let me. It will attack me. It’s waving its tail and making weird chirping noises.”

“What would you like an officer to do?”


“You said that the squirrel is underneath your lawn chair, right?”

She was becoming angry that we hadn’t dispatched an officer. “Send an officer now and shootthesquirrel!”

“An officer’s not going to shoot a moving squirrel that’s directly beneath your buttocks.”


You get the point. I know it was probably legitimately frightening, the squirrel could have eaten fermented apples, or she had licked a few interesting postage stamps and couldn’t manage a straight line to the sliding glass door. The combination of mad squirrel and mad, scared person made for an interesting dialogue.

The positive parts of life can trigger verbal diarrhea as well. This weekend I was writing something important and desperately wanted it to be profound and encouraging. “Keep it short, or don’t do it” said that all too quiet voice somewhere in the southwest corner of my left ventricle. That voice kept poking me as I wrote– doot doot doot doot, hey, batta batta, doot doot doot.

But NO! I decided to let it all hang out and attempt to be encouraging in great detail, interlacing my web of words with thoughts on life and faith and all sorts of marvelous things that would surely inspire the involved parties to do even greater things than they had ever done before! After all, my friends know I’m rarely short on words, and surely they understood my excitement!

That may be so, but sometimes less is more. Today I’ve had moments of feeling like curling up into a ball and hiding for awhile for releasing so much of the inner monologue. Or slipping away to a monastery in the Malaysian mountains to stress out over something that might turn out just fine or even be inconsequential (does Malaysia have mountains?).

Chances are it’s okay, but I remind myself that words have terrible power. They can bring life and they can conquer dictatorships. They can wrap around us like strong, sensual arms or beat us mercilessly like overripe oranges wielded in a stained cotton pillowcase. Words can entice a woman to love a man with reckless abandon, or lift a hopeless soul out of the rank pit that would have otherwise been their grave.

Saying less instead of more is a difficult concept for many of us writers to grasp, especially when you come from a family that thinks and talks at warp speed and understandseachotherquitewell. Saying more can also be a habit of victims of abusive relationships; they’re often told, as an insult, that they’re not making any sense, so they repeat themselves or say more than is necessary to “convince” their listener that they are making sense.

There are also those of us who love being honest and want to let it all out with people we trust so that nothing stays in the secret shadowed places. There is a time and a place for such floodgates to open. We wordsmiths just need to be sensitive to when such fountains of expression are appropriate.

In this case, I realized after the fact that I could have put all of the thoughts into one short and powerful sentence, and it would have nailed what I was trying to say. From a literary standpoint, my effort was quite adequate, but this was not an occasion for literature. It was more likely a time for a succinct statement of deep respect. I’m not saying that what I did was more than 98.6 percent wrong, I’m just nagged by the thought that I could have done it in far fewer characters. And worried about how my alphabetic tsunami went over.

While the victim of my “meckabuck” statement has probably mailed in his utility bills for years now, I find comfort in an Arabian proverb that reminds me of the safety my fast and furious fingers have in my friends:

A Friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of
      one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the
      gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth
      keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.

So when my writing or speech is bubbling with THERESASKIWWAS, inadvertent meckabucks, and errant bagels even though I’ve made a valiant effort to express my thoughts clearly, thank God for friends and family who understand me anyway.

I may have accomplished little more than a verbal train wreck peppered with Freudian slips, clumsy twists of the tongue, and linguistic atom bombs, and I might even sorely regret the effort. But something great, something passionate and deep, was likely driving those monumental missteps in my lengthier discourses. Who knows what’s going on in the shorter ones.

I continue to learn when to light up the afterburners and when to remain in stealth mode, as well as to more gracefully recover from the startling mispronunciations that nip at my heels once in awhile. If we want people to understand us outside of our blogs (where anything goes– yes!), we must temper our passions with sensitivity for our listeners. We should respect the times that silence may be more powerful than an effusive display of the forces that churn violently within our hearts.

Easier said than done. But when I remember what could possibly be at stake, and what might have been lost already, it becomes a little easier to try.


Who can map out the various forces at play in one soul? Man is a great depth, O Lord. The hairs of his head are easier by far to count than his feeling, the movements of his heart. –Augustine


©2012 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

2 thoughts on “Bagel Cats and Other Blunders

  1. You guys are so cool! Thanks for always encouraging me and my “rabid monkey” mind! It’s great to have people of your intellectual caliber cheering me on. And it’ll happen…


  2. Wendy and I think you are incredibleandwonderwhyyouaren’twritingforamagazine!…lol. Your talent and gift is being wasted working where you are now! ~DavidandWendy


Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s