“Boy,” murmured my father, “don’t miss an opportunity today to keep your big mouth shut.” It was good advice, even if it was inspired by his roaring hangover.
That was many years ago, but learning to keep my gob shut remains a work in progress. I like a little chat; actually, quite a lot of little chats.
I was frequently cautioned in school for talking too much. One teacher admitted that although I was rarely boring, I was very distracting and that his job was already hard enough without my input.
The next year I found myself in a class so rowdy it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d stood on my desk roaring into a bullhorn all day. Our poor teacher spent most of her time screaming, “Please!! Be Quiet!!”
One particularly raucous afternoon, the Headmaster appeared in the doorway and got our undivided attention simply by placing his hands on his hips. Granted, the thick cane he was holding probably helped.
“They won’t listen to me!” wailed our teacher. The Headmaster nodded then whispered something into her ear and wandered off. With the Chief Whip gone, chaos resumed. The teacher grinned, then slowly raked her nails down the length of the blackboard; thirty sets of teeth turned to chalk and our eardrums exploded.
From then on, whenever we got a little unruly, she’d simply wave one hand in the direction of the blackboard and the noise level would drop quicker than a brick off a building. Plastic whiteboards eventually ended that vicious custom.
Still, the lesson of a quiet word at the right time was never forgotten; if not strictly applied. Until I started work, when I received the following tip from an old tradesman, “Silence may be golden lad, but duct tape is silver.”
Message received, loud and clear.