In between a hectic schedule of loitering and lollygagging, I found time to turn on TV the other day. The remote landed on a nightly cable news program—one of those where the host talks faster than an auctioneer, and the guests are lucky to squeeze in a couple of gerunds or a dangling participle before they are interrupted.
You might have noticed that some of those shows ever have reasonably non-confrontational names these days like On the Record and Your World. (The show titles Polite Conversation and Reasoned Discourse are not currently being used.)
Hardball is just about the most contentious name going right now since Crossfire went away some time ago. But after the dust settles following this election cycle, look for grittier show titles: The Ruckus Factor, Hostility & Stones and Cockfight Tonight.
Getting back to that show I was watching—a smug, self-congratulatory commentator was saying, “Putin should get his just desserts!” For some reason, I was more interested in his choice of words, than his opinion. I wondered, what exactly are “just desserts” anyway? Why should an apparently well-fed guy like Putin get ANY dessert?
Dessert is a special reward that comes after eating a meal. Certainly an egotistical near-dictator should not be given chocolate mousse, baklava or even fruitcake.
When I was troublesome as a kid, I never got dessert. And that was merely for getting my clothes muddy. I never even thought about invading neighboring countries.
It turns out that “desserts”—when used in the Putin context, for example— is just another of those many words that are sometimes misspelled—just as the word ‘misspelled’ is often mispeled.
We know that the word “desert” refers to a dry, barren expanse of land—such as the Kingdome during the Mariners games of the 1980’s. But desert—when pronounced like dessert—also refers to a deserved punishment or reward. So a guy like Putin—if punished in an appropriate manner—would get his “just deserts.” Like, say, an oily pudding made out of sand.
One of the facts of life is that few people ever do seem to get their “just deserts”, no matter how you spell or pronounce it. The school bully, the grouchy store clerk, the haughty cheerleader, and the manufacturers of Big Bertha—they all might get their comeuppance in the movies, but rarely in real life.
That’s why a news story from some time ago caught my eye. It had to do with a Virginia man whose pet shar-pei bit him. So he decided to beat the dog to death with the butt of his rifle. Nice guy, eh? Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for the dog), the gun went off mid-beating—and the guy wound up accidentally shooting—and offing himself—instead of the dog. Granted, that is not a funny story—but somehow there is a certain justice in the outcome. And if a shar-pei could grin, that one would.
While driving home late one night several years ago, I noticed a set of headlights coming at breakneck speed behind me. The headlights, it turned out, were attached to a car—and the car was attached to some inebriated guy who thought he was in a NASCAR race.
After sitting on my bumper for a few seconds—and honking (I had the audacity to be driving at the speed limit)—he suddenly blew past me along the shoulder of the road, and rocketed out of sight. I figured that would be the last I’d see of him, but there was some dessert waiting for him down the road.
Rounding a bend about ten minutes later, I saw a couple of police cars just pulling up in front of a paint store—where moments earlier, the would-be Richard Petty had plowed into the front entrance. He was just climbing out of his car as the cops arrived—his embarrassed face made all the redder by a can of vermillion semi-gloss. I felt somewhat bad for him. But not THAT bad. I hope they let him off easy—like three consecutive 99-year sentences at Monroe.
Not the reformatory. Monroe.
So while it does not happen as much as we would like, when just desserts (or deserts) are actually dished up—the taste is sweet.
I should know. I can still remember a college roommate that just did not work out. The situation became unbearable.
How would you like it if your jerk roommate was a disgusting slob, always leaving smelly clothes and dirty dishes lying around? Well, my roommate certainly like it either.
I think that’s why he finally moved out. No warnings, no goodbyes.
He just deserted.