Thursday, March 01, 2007

The "Eff" Word

I met Hazel soon after I started working. She was petite, impeccably dressed, white hair flawlessly coiffed. She had worked for the company for twenty years when I started and worked ten more before she retired.

Her retirement party was part celebration, part roast. Hazel had learned a thing or two from the longshoremen back when the company office was actually on the docks. And she wasn't afraid to use her knowledge on those in the office who deserved it, including a young man, working for his uncle during his vacations from college, who later became a Senior Vice-President of the company. Who was gleefully telling the story while Hazel tried to hide under her napkin.

Much like the military, the "eff" word is used liberally in the steamship business. It's a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb--sometimes all in the same sentence. Things go wrong all the time. Sometimes it's merely annoying. Sometimes it's serious. Occasionally it's fatal. The "eff" word covers all those situations.

Because the word is so common, it's easily absorbed into daily conversation and used indiscriminately. I had to "unlearn" my use of the "eff" word (among others) after DS#1 was born and I realized that 2-y.o.s shouldn't use that kind of language. I found it to be kind of an addiction--ultimately, it was easier just to not use the word at all rather than trying to limit my use.

I do pretty well--so much so that when I let loose, co-workers and acquaintances are shocked that not only do I know those words, I know how to use them. After all, they see a middle-aged mother of four who dresses professionally, if not impeccably, and whose hair, while not white, is getting pretty close.

Earlier this week I went to lunch with a long-time friend and it turned into a gripe-and-steam-blowing session. We were in one of his favorite restaurants when I let loose my feelings in what Capt. Kirk once described to Mr. Spock as "colorful metaphors." I must have been a tad bit loud (oops!) because we got a few looks.

And then I thought of Hazel, God rest her soul. A true lady and pioneer who is probably laughing wickedly at me wherever she is.