It was a simple enough question from the man behind the counter.
“Will that be all for you?”
The man thought, looked back at his son, already halfway through the not-yet-purchased cookie, and answered. “Yes. For now.”
I laughed, having been there many times myself in this bakery, done, “for now,” back in a moment for a second cookie.
“Right, never say never,” I said.
He gestured to his son, “Not with this one…”
“Right,” I said, “I guess in this situation I should have said, ‘never say no, when saying yes can offer you the opportunity to bribe your child…’”
He laughed. I ordered my own two small vanilla cookies for my son and sat down. Within a few moments, the man was back up at the counter for more, and a moment later, so was I.
“Here,” I said, placing one gold star and then another on his jacket as he left the bakery with full hands, “for having to buy more, like I did,” I said.
He laughed as he pushed out the door with his extra cookies, for people they were going to visit. “Thank you!” he said.
I joked, and in this case it was funny, but I thought later how, sometimes, in other situations, this ‘never say never,’ ‘never say no,’ phenomenon is more of a societal ill than laughing matter. It shows both how noncommittal and indulgent we often are. People, including myself, are loathe to say no definitively, since it’s always nice to have the option…Same goes for ‘yes,’ which, frankly, even when people do offer it up, does not mean they are still wholly on the hook. That’s what cell phones are for, last-minute cancellations or change of plans, just in time.
Often the most popular eVite party response, aside from no response at all, is “Maybe.” The fact that there even is this option says quite a bit. But “Maybe” isn’t even as bad as the response I got from a friend one night when I asked him if he was coming to a party I’d invited him to: “I maybe might…” he said.
I laughed. Maybe might? Is that more or less a likelihood than maybe or might on their own, I wondered. Maybe I should have asked him for percentage odds just to figure it. If you’re wondering, he didn’t show and I guess I couldn’t really fault him: he hadn’t, after all, committed.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows this is not a new gripe of mine. Friends in middle school used to offer up a blasé, “I’ll call you!” after school, and then, of course, no call would come through. And, in those days, I might have stayed home just to wait. I was always shocked and my more practical friend would laugh at me.
“They didn’t really mean they’d call, it’s just a saying…” she’d say.
Just a saying. Like ‘never say never…” Important, isn’t it, to keep our options open? I guess it opens some doors, but not deciding, I’ve learned myself, the hard way, often closes doors as well.