A lady came into the store today asking where she could find Voltaire. I asked if she was looking for Candide ,and she said she was. This sounds innocuous, but it wasn't, for I'm an uneducated buffoon.
You see, when I studied Candide at the nation's largest junior college (TJC,) it was pronounced Can-dee-dee by my rather eccentric English professor. So when I asked today's customer if she was looking for Can-dee-dee, she rolled her eyes in my direction just a split second before her neck commanded her head to follow, and said, with a disdain reserved for the lowliest peasants she obviously has to put up with daily, "It's proNOUNCED Can-deed." Knowing I was right, I decided to humor her and just said "OK." (I've since found through Wikipedia, which others have lately used to discredit one of my posts, that she was right. But that doesn't help my rant here, so we'll just tuck that bit of knowledge away as we move forward.)
I also didn't read Candide, but was able to get my hand on a copy of an old television movie rendition of the novel to watch before my class. Because the book is in my mind in visual form, I could have swore it was in our drama section. So I told her I knew exactly where it was, and proceeded to take her to the appropriate section for Voltaire and all his wonderful plays. I didn't find it there, at which point she said, "Sir, Candide is NOT a play, it should be in your Classics section." At which point I remembered that it was, in fact, in general fiction.
There are several copies of the book in the appropriate section, so I handed her the most expensive. If anyone deserves to be bled dry by a corporate giant, it is this snob.
"Have you actually read Candide?" she asked her servant.
"Yes ma'am, I read it in college."
"Well I'm buying it for a niece of mine. She's a freshman in college and is taking philosophy. I want her to be exposed to the GREAT works."
I already wasn't coming out of this conversation looking good, so I decided to go ahead and ham it up. I stepped into the role of the proletariat. No one plays that part better than me, even if it is sometimes just an act.
"I took philosophy in college. I never knew more about life and the minute intricacies of reality than I did at the end of that class. It's been all downhill since then." (At which point I should have belched to add emphasis.)
My biographical snippet was about a class I took in college. The subtext, however, was "Bitch, you think you know shit, but you don't!"
It wasn't my best moment.
All throughout school I was typically at the bottom of the top academically. I scammed my way into honors classes as a sophomore and felt like a fraud most of the time, as most of the others in those classes were labeled GT, Gifted and Talented, when we were in Junior High. But I somehow fooled the powers that were and made it in with the Brownsboro cast of Head of the Class.
At ETBU I was sold on the liberal-arts-is-the-best-way-to-go-because-you-become-a-well-rounded-person philosophy, which can also be described as the get-ready-to-bust-your-ass-for-the-rest-of-your-life-because-you'll-never-escape-your-student-loans school of thought.
Somewhere in the midst of all this I began to develop a mild interest in intellectual conversation. Some periods were more intense than others, especially when I was needing to find out where I belonged in the world. I tried putting on the smarter-than-you-could-ever-dream-of-being hat, but it didn't work. First of all, I wasn't. And secondly, I've always been a people pleaser, and it's hard to please others when you are looking down on them.
But I try to endure the glare of the intelligentsia. Deep down I tell myself I'm just as smart as any of them, even when I'm not.
I guess we are all looking for something. We want to know the mysteries. Finding the solution to ending injustices in the world is on the top of many lists. But mostly we want someone to tell us, "Hey, that thing you do. You're good at it."
When the lady walked away she looked back and said "You really should read Candide. Voltaire gives you the best of both worlds."
I have no clue what she meant by that, but maybe she was inviting me to affirm her passions. I hope someone takes her up on it.