printed 08/19/2022

Ocean City’s ArtX expo is taking place this weekend at Northside Park, which means I will be fired three or four times between Friday and Sunday afternoon, depending on circumstances way, way beyond my control.

Specifically, these circumstances will involve how many times I offer an unsolicited opinion about how something ought to be done to an audience that doesn’t want to hear it.

I know that will come as a surprise to many people, well, maybe several, or possibly no one at all, but it remains that I so frequently pipe up when I should shut up that it’s not something I can turn off at will.

“Hello? Sir, we’re conducting a political poll for the High-Falutin’ Federation of Fear Mongers. Would you have 15 minutes ...”

“I got all day for this, sister.”

Anyway, my job when ArtX (Artistic Expression) arrives is to lug and tote and to help set up the vendor tent for my wife who — Full disclosure: shameless, self-serving promotion coming up next — will be there selling her gloriously stunning handcrafted sterling silver and gemstone jewelry to people with a discerning eye for high-quality craftsmanship.

I know I’m not supposed to say things like that in this space, but it’s critical that I create at least one get-out-of-jail-free card to employ when the situation inevitably begins to get a little touchy.

“Hey,” I’ll say, “you know what would be an easier way to erect this so-called Easy-Up?” We could just ...”

“Don’t start,” she replies sternly.

“Yeah, but we could color-code the ...”

“I’m telling you ...”

“But what if we arranged the tent poles this way, instead of ...”

“You’re fired!”

Actually, this would be just a trial run. She can’t fire me because I am the chief lugger and toter, with which she cannot do without. It’s more of a preemptive strike, a shot across my bow, so to speak, to let me know that she has reached DEFCON 3, which means she is prepared to launch if I continue.

That usually occurs after the tent is up, the ballast tied down just so and I begin to “help” with the placement of various displays.

“Here,” I say, “let me help you with that.”

“No. You don’t know where it goes.”

“Sure I do, it would look good right on the center table.”

“No, that’s not what I want.”

“But really, wouldn’t this look good?”

“Put. It. Down.”

“I think it looks pretty good. And you know what else? This bracelet display would ...”

“You’re fired.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“I’m hurt. I’m just trying to help.”

“You can stay if you just shut up and get out of my way.”

“But ...”

“Get out!”

And so it goes, as I trudge back to the street with my head down, dejectedly kicking a few stones along the way. I’ll climb into my truck, and slowly pull out my cell phone and punch in the number.

“Hello?” I’ll say. “Yep, right on schedule. I’m ready to go fishing when you are.”

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