Riding the White Elephant
The generation of male Okies to which I belong has the inexplicable tradition of mercilessly teasing their friends. It’s a dumb tradition, I know, but these are the rules:
- We tease only our closest friends. To say to strangers the sorts of things that we say to our friends would be to invite a fistfight.
- The more outrageous and unfounded the accusation, the funnier it is.
- We never tease by saying things that could possibly be perceived as the truth. In other words, if you believe what you are saying might contain a grain of truth – even a tiny bit – you are no longer being funny; you’re being a bully and a jerk.
My friend Ken owns a big plumbing company in another state. So when he sent me a cell phone video of his new $7,000 toilet, I began to pound on him relentlessly about what that toilet said about him as a man. That high-tech toilet became the fulcrum of a playground teeter-totter onto which I could jump when he least expected it and send him flying topsy-turvy into the air.
There’s just nowhere to hide when your friends can ask you about your fancy toilet at the most unexpected moments and in the most unexpected ways.
One day there was a knock at the door. “Are you Roy Williams?”
Uh-oh. Ken had sent me a fancy toilet of my own. Before I could hide it, Pennie saw it and liked it. “But it’s way too nice for this house,” she said.
“Are you saying this house isn’t worthy of a toilet like that?”
She looked at me and nodded. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
Friends, you just can’t imagine the kinds of upgrades that are required when you have been gifted a fancy toilet.
I was reminded of the story of an ancient King of Siam who would give white elephants as a passive-aggressive gift to anyone who displeased him. White elephants are rare and were considered sacred in Siam, so people were required to treat them with special care, feeding them expensive food and never using them for work. The spectacular gift of a white elephant imposed a huge financial burden on the person who received one and of course you could never sell the elephant, lest you appear ungrateful.
Yep, what I had me here was a white elephant.
I’ve never ridden the elephant because, frankly, it frightens me.
I always explain to guests who want to ride my white elephant how they must approach it with reverence when they journey to present themselves before it. The elephant will then kneel to allow them aboard as the music of angels wafts through the room and a strange light begins to glow.
I promise I’m not making any of this up.
My friend Manley Miller once stayed up all night playing with the remote so that he could learn all of the elephant’s tricks. When Manley told Pennie and I about his escapades with the elephant the next morning, I realized that my friend Ken had beat me at my own game.
Evidently, Ken grew up in a state where young boys know how to jump on the teeter-totter, too.
Roy H. Williams