Special to The Windham Eagle
As I piloted my black Prius to the Cumberland Fair late last month I couldn’t help thinking of a particular old axiom.
Reputable sources maintain the phrase “Never say never” first appeared in print in a Charles Dickens novel that was published in 1837.
I’ve never read The Pickwick Papers, but despite that gap in my literary knowledge, I think it’s obvious Dickens intended the phrase as satire. After all, who seriously says, “Never say never,” while simultaneously using the forbidden term twice in a three-word sentence?
The sentiment expressed by this familiar adage usually makes sense, but there are exceptions. It’s perfectly acceptable when stating an irreversible fact that, given the time-space continuum, cannot possibly change. For example, “Mother Teresa never attended the Super Bowl” constitutes an inarguably factual use of the phrase. It’s equally safe to declare “Mother Teresa will never witness a Super Bowl,” given both the difficulty of obtaining Super Bowl tickets and Mother Teresa’s current status (dead).
But stating those three words in a declaratively predictive manner, as in “I will never drive a black Prius,” is always inadvisable. (Phew! I almost said, “never advisable,” but remembered this essay’s nominal subject just in time.)
“Never say never” had been lying dormant deep in my mind’s attic for a significant amount of time. But it advanced to the front of the phrase queue recently when I was invited to join a friend at the Cumberland Fair. I jumped at the chance, since it wasn’t just an opportunity to spend time with someone I like; it was also the ideal excuse to remedy a significant personal shortcoming. I hadn’t ever attended the Cumberland Fair, a less-than-admirable distinction for someone who’s lived within five miles of the fairgrounds for the past two decades.
Thankfully I’d never declared, “I will never go to the Cumberland Fair.” If I had I’d have had to either eat those foolish words, or senselessly pass on a golden opportunity to enjoy myself.
I’m definitely going back to the Cumberland Fair, and I’m not going to wait another 20 years to do so, either. Despite overcast skies on the day my friend and I attended, the temperature was perfect, everyone was friendly, and there were tons of cool things to do and see all around the fairgrounds. There was also a wide variety of delicious, locally produced food available. Several of the locals urged us to go watch the pig races, but we got so busy chatting that we never got around to it. We did, however, get close enough to the barn where those contests were taking place to surmise that the squealing, four-legged competitors weren’t quite as thrilled with the event as the witnesses were.
When light rain began falling my friend and I headed across the street to the large field that serves as the fair’s makeshift parking lot. En route to our respective vehicles we were subjected to an annoying car alarm that was going off ceaselessly for the better part of our lengthy walk. My friend suggested the responsible party was someone who couldn’t find their car in the massive field and set off their alarm with the “panic button” on their key ring in order to locate it. That’s when I haughtily informed her that I had never had to do that, and that I never would.
Twenty minutes later, soaked to the skin after fruitlessly searching for my car, I finally surrendered and hit the red button on my electronic car key. Three separate times, in fact.
Who knew so many Cumberland Fair attendees drive black Priuses? <