Q. I hear people saying we should take an abundance of cotton. What does that mean?
A. You’re hearing it wrong. It’s an abundance of caution.
Q. Is that like saying you want a toss salad, when you really mean a tossed salad?
A. Not exactly, because even though people have misheard or misunderstood the name of the salad, they still want a salad.
Q. And nobody wants a lot of cotton?
A. Not in their toss salad.
Q. What happens if we don’t take an abundance of cotton?
A. When you say “take an abundance of cotton,” what you’re really talking about is picking an abundance of cotton or, to be precise, cotton balls.
Q. What if we don’t pick an abundance of cotton balls?
A. The cotton balls get rotten.
Q. And when them cotton balls get rotten…
A. You can’t pick very much cotton.
Q. Like in them old cotton fields back home?
A. Depends on where home is.
Q. It was down in Louisiana.
A. Just about a mile from Texarkana?
Q. Yes. When I was a little bitty baby
A. Did your mama ever rock you in the cradle?
Q. We were too poor to have a cradle.
A. Where did she rock you?
Q. It was down in Louisiana
A. Right. Look, we’ve gotten off topic. I’m talking about caution.
Q. So why should I take an abundance of caution?
A. Let’s say you live in the mountains. You get up one day and find a bear asleep in your car. What would you do?
Q. I’d rap on the window and tell him to get the hell out of my car.
A. To do that you’d have to go right up to the car. What if the bear has an accomplice, hiding behind a tree. And he jumps out and eats you?
Q. I didn’t think about an accomplice bear.
A. Most people don’t. Their first instinct is to throw their abundance of caution into the wind.
Q. What should I have done?
A. First, when you wake up in the morning, always assume there is a bear in your car and behind every tree.
Q. Isn’t that a little extreme?
A. Imagine your obituary saying “We tried to warn him, but he walked past a tree humming “Zippiddy Do Dah.” A bear jumped out and ate him. He wouldn’t listen. It was like he had an abundance of cotton in his ears.”
Q. Can you use just a tiny bit of caution? Is it like bagpipe music–a little goes a long way?
A. With caution, it’s just the opposite. Let’s say your town has an outbreak of viral plantar warts.
Q. Because people were planting rotten cotton balls?
A. And let’s say an infected neighbor knocks on your door to return a pair of socks he borrowed.
Q. Wouldn’t they have wart sauce all over them?
A. Exactly. Highly contagious. If you used only a tiny bit of caution you’d tell him to keep the socks and you’d quickly close the door.
Q. With both of us inside? Both of us outside? Me inside and him outside? Vicey versey?
A. Right. Now what would you do if you used an abundance of caution?
Q. Give him a clean pair of socks?
A. No. You’d tell him to go over to your car and knock on the driver’s side window and tell the bear to get the hell out of your car.
Q. But wouldn’t an accomplice bear jump out from behind a tree and eat him?
A. Not just him, but the wart-sauced socks.
Q. Wouldn’t the bear get sick?
A. That’s his problem. If he’d been using an abundance of caution he would have eaten nuts and berries. Or a toss salad.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2014, all rights reserved.