Slings From Readers Cut To The Quick
By Erma Bombeck
February 12, 1994
There s a story about the successful businessmanÂ who had a small box on his desk with a little redÂ button. A curious visitor one day asked, “What’s thatÂ box for?” The executive said, “When I push thatÂ button, absolutely nothing happens. It keeps meÂ humble.”
Writers don’t need boxes onÂ their desks. Every day they areÂ reminded by someone how theyÂ could brighten up a room by leaving it.
Example: Recently I received aÂ letter from a guy suggesting thatÂ if I turned out to be the most famous person to call a Rochester radio DJ before a certain date, IÂ could win $1,000. Â He went on to sayÂ that if I actually won, it would beÂ nice if I helped his friend pay forÂ his last term in graduate school at GeorgeÂ Washington.
The letter would have been both tempting and flattering had I not noted that it was addressed toÂ “Emma Bombeck.” If HE didn’t know who I wasÂ how could I possibly expect to be the most famousÂ person to call in? Unless, of course – it was HelenÂ Clinton.
It happens every day. A kid desperate to get aÂ term paper written by you will tell you how you haveÂ been the center of his universe ever since he canÂ remember. You have given purpose and substance toÂ his life. He has laughed with you since clinging to hisÂ mother’s knees. On Page 2 will be one terse sentence “If you don’t answer back in two days, I’m writingÂ Ellen Goodman.”
We are used to put-downs from our families. WhenÂ my husband says he went to the library and all myÂ books are in, that is something I expect. Or when aÂ good friend calls and asks, “Did you call me?” andÂ you say, “Yes, didn’t you get my message? “and sheÂ says, “It says here, ‘Irma Domfeck called,”‘it’s OK.
It’s the brickbats from strangers that hurt, A fewÂ years ago I was in New York outside my hotel, awaiting a cab. A man and a small mongrel-type dog wereÂ standing beside me. A photographer came up andÂ asked if I minded stepping behind a potted evergreenÂ and out of his shot. It seems the dog was just in aÂ movie with Bette Midler and the photographer wasÂ doing a “spread” on him.
You want to talk humble: I was standing behind aÂ bush that minutes before the “star” had wet on.Â The only point in bringing all this up is that I justÂ read a letter from a reader who said, “Lady, don’tÂ give up your day job!”
This IS my day job.