Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

The part of the brain responsible for speech is called Broca’s Area, named after the scientist who discovered it, Dr. Alfonse Area. Deep within Broca’s Area is the tiny sliver of brain where a very specific part of language originates, the snappy comeback. This region is called the “Oh Yeah? Same To You Buddy! Area,” named after its discoverer, Professor Thaddeus O. Yeah.

In some people this little bit of brain real estate is highly developed. You know these people – able to come up with the perfect thing to say in the perfect time, little quips that put people right in their place. My “Oh Yeah …” area isn’t quite so advanced. It works, but sometimes it seems to be a bit behind. Like years behind.

For instance, just last week I found myself saying, “Sure, I’ll try, but as you know new habits can be very difficult to develop. False starts are inevitable, and old habits are so easy to fall back into that I really can’t promise any measurable results in a timely manner. But I’ll sure try.”

Now this is an odd thing to say to a waiter who has just asked if you’d like to hear the specials, right? But then I remembered that years ago I was riding my bike through town during the offseason, happily ignoring all stop signs because there wasn’t a car around for miles, when a cop on a bike comes out of nowhere and yells at me, “Sir! Please try to get in the habit of stopping at stop signs!” I was so stunned that any other human was around, let alone a cop on a bike, that I was only able to say, “OK.”

But years later it comes bubbling out. My glacial comeback. Zing! Take that, eventually. And yes, one could argue that my treatise on habit formation wasn’t exactly “snappy,” but it was certainly thorough.

Problem is, when these comebacks do come back, I’m not always able to remember the situation it was meant to be coming back to. The cop retort took weeks to figure out, and some of these seeming non-sequiturs still remain a mystery. Their intended targets are still at large, waiting to be put in their place.

Who, for example, is the person in need of this rebuffing: “Well, that’s exactly what I said to your mother, while she was washing my car.”

What jerk has dared cross me to the degree that this can of verbal whoop ass awaits them: “You’ve obviously mistaken me for someone with 501(c)3 tax exemption status. Punk.”

And who’s the poor sap who’ll someday get this verbal poke in the eye: “Well, that’s exactly what I said to your mother, while she was painting my house.”


Recently, while alone in my kitchen, I said, “Of course I have, I’ve just never seen one riding a cow.”

I thought this was another example of my brain being slow on the uptake, until a few weeks went by and I saw a woman with a monkey at the grocery store. A very rude woman with a monkey. Not a chimp, but one of those little shoulder-mounted models. Now, if you’re gonna walk around with a monkey on your shoulder, you’re pretty much asking to be stared at, right? So, I might have been doing a bit of that. I was shocked when the woman turned to me and said, quite impolitely, “What’s your problem? Haven’t you ever seen a monkey before?”

I said, “OK.” Like always.

But then I remembered what I’d said earlier – that bit about the cow and stuff! The perfect thing to say had come to me BEFORE I needed it. That wasn’t a lagging comeback – I’d been given a proactive snappy putdown. Like a psychic Don Rickles. Damn.

Since then I’ve applied for several grants to study myself. If there’s a part of the brain responsible for pre-emptive comebacks, then I want to be the one to discover it. I’m guessing such a discovery will lead to glory, riches, and my picture on the cover of scientific magazines that I’ve never heard of. But best of all, as its discoverer, I’ll get to name it.

I’m thinking “Barry’s Region,” after my great-grandfather, Region Smith.

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