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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 10.25.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

You'll get yourself a reputation

As the saying goes, reputations are like soufflés: tough to make, easily ruined, not good with tequila.

A ruined reputation is one thing, but a reputation can also be like the 1995 Best Picture Oscar for Forrest Gump: completely undeserved.

Take for example this recent workplace scenario. A colleague came into my office and asked me, "Do you have a Kleenex?"

"I have this toilet paper," I replied and handed her the roll that happened to be on my desk. She began unrolling a wad.

"You can keep the roll," I said cheerfully, but she declined.

The next day, I arrived at my office and saw, on the cabinet behind my desk, a box of tissues. How considerate, I thought.

"Did you get a box of Kleenex for my office?" I asked my co-worker.

"No," she said.

Then it clicked:

"Wait a minute -- was that box there yesterday when you asked me for a tissue?"

"Yes."

"And I handed you toilet paper?"

"Yes."

Rewinding the tape, here's how that original conversation must have gone down from her perspective:

Co-worker, spying the box of tissues over my shoulder: "Do you have a Kleenex?"

Me: "I have this toilet paper."

Co-worker, unrolling wad of paper: ("Stingy so-and-so.")

Me: "You can keep the roll."

Co-worker: ("Schmuck.")

Had I not realized my mistake the following day and apologized, there's a very good possibility that I might have earned a reputation -- undeservedly, through no fault of my own -- of being tight with tissues. Hoggish with hankies. Miserly with mouchoirs. Parsimonious with personal paper products.

Like the celebrity status of reality television personalities and the bonuses of many top CEOs, such a reputation would be entirely unearned.

Here's another example. This past Sunday I was at my daughter Katie's rugby game. My youngest daughter Abby joined me on the sidelines where I was shooting photos of the action on the field. As I crouched down, Abby plopped her wool hat on my head. The hat was brown with ear flaps on the side and woolen bear ears on top. It was adorable and, yes, so was I.

"You should take your hat back," I said. "It's cold."

"That's okay, I'm not cold. You can wear it," she said.

Well, it was indeed quite brisk, and the hat was awfully cozy. Honestly, I can't say enough about ear flaps; I've completely come around to them in recent years. So I kept the hat on and returned to shooting photos.

I realized I looked somewhat silly in a child's hat, but most of the spectators in the stands probably saw what went down between Abby and me and were collectively going, "Awwwww...!" So-o-o-o-o adorable!

Sometime later, sitting back in the stands, I convinced Abby to take back her hat and put it on. After she wandered back down to the sideline, I saw that, in addition to ear flaps and bear ears, her hat had a giant pink wool flower sewn to the front.

"I didn't know there was a flower!" I said to no one in particular. "A blue flower, maybe, but a pink flower?"

Let's talk reputations again: attention-seeking immature buffoon; I was already living with that reputation and now I had to deal with the perception of having terrible taste in hats.

So what have we learned from all this?

1) Keeping a roll of toilet paper on your office desk is never classy.

2) Don't let children put anything on your head.

3) Forrest Gump was a simplistic, manipulative, cloying piece of drek that, yes, I'm still bitter about seventeen years later.

4) Don't count on family, friends or co-workers to let you know when you're behaving like an idiot.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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