Monday, August 17, 2015

A Revelation at the Funeral Parlor

I’d never done anything like this before. I’d never found myself suddenly in charge of planning someone’s funeral, selecting their casket and everything.

So there I am at the funeral parlor and the funeral director adds up the tab. He presents it to me. I look. The funeral will cost about $10,000.

“Is that all right?” he says, apologetically.

Here’s what I said to myself right at that minute: You should hold out! You should say no, $10,000 is NOT all right. What’s he gonna do about it? Last night in the middle of the night his people came out to your dead relative's home, lifted her out of her bed, placed her on a gurney, slid her into their vehicle and brought her here. What if you say $10,000 isn’t all right? Will he do it in reverse? Will he have his people take her back home and put her back in bed? He can’t do that, can he? You should call his bluff and see what happens! But what if he does do that? Then you’ll really be screwed! You don’t have any negotiation power here. He’s got you by the scrotum. He has your dead relative as a hostage.

This feeling of powerlessness really sucks. But wait, something positive is emerging from this. You’re about to have a valuable revelation. Yep, I can feel one coming on! I think it’s gonna be a big one so hang on tight! You’ve felt this powerlessness often before except, unlike now, it usually has something to do with you feeling powerless because you're crippled, right? That’s why you hate Tiny Tim so much! He’s the symbol of the ultimate powerless cripple. The only negotiating chip Tiny Tim has is pity. All he can say is, “If you don’t give me the money to get the special operation that will make me not crippled anymore I’ll die and you’ll look like a real asshole!” Do you really want to try that one with the funeral director? “Well I guess $10,000 is okay. I’ll just have to forego getting the special operation that will make me not crippled anymore and I’ll die. But that’s okay. Don't mind me.” Do you really want to lower yourself to that?

Having pity as your only leverage sucks because a shrewd opponent can easily counter it with mercy killing: “I’m sorry that your life is so miserable. Here, let me do you a favor by smothering you.” And voila, your shrewd opponent makes no concessions at all and still comes out looking like a wonderful human being. Checkmate! That’s why pity sucks. Pity isn’t really power.

But here’s where the revelation comes in. Next time someone asks what all you angry cripples want, you finally have a clear answer! You can tell them cripples want the same thing every human wants. Cripples want the power to negotiate. Humans get restless and ornery when they have no say in what’s going on, no control over the future. Humans don’t like it when another human has them by the scrotum, so to speak. Cripples, being humans, are the same way.

All this shot through my head in the five seconds or so between when the funeral director asked me if $10,000 was all right and I replied, “Yes, it’s fine.”

I didn’t exactly play hardball. But at least I learned something.

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