Years ago, when I was a mortal man, I was sent to interview Rickey Henderson on the eve of his breaking the record for stolen bases in a single season. A sports writer for a rival paper had the same assignment. We cornered Rickey before a game and started asking questions.
I scribbled very fast. My rival, I noted, occasionally jotted.
In the next day’s papers I was stunned to see in my rival’s story words attributed to Dr. Henderson that, while colorful, weren’t the words I had scribbled down. And they weren’t the words that came out of the fast man’s mouth.
My one-time rival is now rich and famous for being colorful and wise. I toil in obscurity in the basement, my only contact with the outer world a squirrel who taps on my window each morning for the latest ball scores. (I don’t know why I help him, because he won’t even share his nuts.)
But I am not bitter, because bitterness was never in my DNA. I remain proud of adhering to the journalist’s code of never making up quotes. My Henderson story, while bland, colorless and forgotten, was accurate.
However, ever since then I have suffered — largely in silence — from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Brought on, the doctors say, by repressing a bilious, fulminating outrage at the success of my rival, whose immediate and humiliating loss of his stupid ever-growing wavy hair I pray for daily.
But, as I told the squirrel the other day, if a little IBS is the price you pay for honesty, I can accept that. A lot of IBS and I might want to revisit. I have sworn, however, never to interview Rickey Henderson again.
In the meantime, I find solace in fact-checking famous quotations and noting that most are shamefully inaccurate or cut short. I attribute this to the difference between scribbling and jotting. Below you will find shocking examples, with the supposed, famous quote first, followed, in italics by the actual words spoken. I must go now, for I feel some irritability coming on.
That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
That’s one small step they put on the bottom rung of the lander’s ladder. I almost fell off and broke my astronaut. But I made a giant leap and, man, kind of crazy, isn’t it, given the price of this trip that you have to jump off the lander? I better warn Buzz.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hitch your wagon to a star…
…To be safe, make sure you use a juicy knot.
Time is money…
…Anybody got change for a noon?
The child is father of the man…
…The man asks the child for the keys to the car and the child says ‘Eat my Fruit Loops.’
To err is human, to forgive divine.
The air is human and, forgive me, not so divine. Must have been the chili.
God helps them that help themselves…
…but if you don’t stop helping yourself to all the gravy, I’m going to pass you the punch.
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread…
…Fools then rush out and shout at the angels ‘Thanks for having our backs, you bunch of pansies.’
That which does not kill us makes us stronger…
…that which does kill us, makes us dead.
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
If you want some tonight, do it yourself.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
The examined, life, however, can get you indicted.
Necessity is the mother of invention…
The father of invention was a guy named Urgle who argued just before he died that, as a safety measure, arrows should have sharp points on just one end.
It is always darkest just before the dawn.
It is always darkest just before you go to turn on the lights and stumble over the dog.
A penny saved is a penny earned…
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail…
… so the search party can find your body.
I think, therefore I am.
I am, I think. Therefore, don’t quote me.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2014, all rights reserved.