The other March Madness l Chuck's World


Last updated 3/20/2019 at Noon

My son and I had an old-fashioned conversation the other day, one in which we both pretended, for a few minutes, that we didn’t have instant access to most of humankind’s accumulated knowledge.

This was because I was driving, and he really wasn’t interested. That’s the only thing that kept us from grabbing our phones and finding the answer. It was like going back in time to 2009.

The subject of this conversation was the word “flimflam,” and before your phone fingers get twitchy, it’s a real word. It’s been around for 500 years, in fact, its definition remaining essentially the same.

It’s a silly word, a nonsense word, but we’ve got lots of those, and this particular one has always been a favorite.

A flimflam is a confidence game, usually a low-level one, and a flimflam man is a practitioner, although he may only exist in movies, and anyway a word is only useful if it’s actually used, and I seem to be the only person using “flimflam” these days.

It comes from a movie, in fact, the 1967 film “The Flim-Flam Man,” starring George C. Scott. I saw it when I was a kid, the second part of a double feature, a comic film set in the sleepy South. It wasn’t particularly successful, although years later I caught it a couple of times on TV, and I’m sure there’s a healthy fan base out there with a website and message boards.

It was filled with character actors I love, now long gone, and I’d probably watch it again, but this isn’t about the movie.

I just remember the word, mostly, and the small swindles that Scott’s character ran on gullible yokels. One of these cons had to do with confusing a store clerk at the cash register, and something my son said made me think of it, inspiring the phoneless conversation and the past few paragraphs.

The weather is a little impish right now, motivated by God knows what, although you don’t need me to tell you that. We were barely above freezing for weeks, it seemed, and now it’s hitting 70 degrees, which feels very much like a prank.

Or a scam, which is a word that started popping up around the time “The Flim-Flam Man” was made, a baby word, an infant in the dictionary. Or maybe spring is just a meteorological flimflam, and I’m only noticing now.

It’s the contrast, that’s all. I get it. The last snow straggler has barely shuffled off and all of a sudden we’re searching for shorts? This is wrong.

Shorts are also sometimes wrong. I mention this as a public service, directed mostly toward men my age.

Winter was easy; I just layered up and was generally pretty comfy. My son gave me this terrific winter coat for Christmas, very warm and loaded with huge pockets. Lots of them. I’m still finding pockets.

That’s what’s driving most of this, in fact. I miss that big coat of many pockets. For one thing, I could shove my clothing layers into those pockets, scarves and gloves, along with rolled up shopping bags, mail, and a fully grown cat (if necessary).

In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that there’s a pocket shortage in this country, which has been brought to my attention by every woman I’ve ever met. We have more stuff now. Pocket manufacturers are falling behind, in my opinion.

And even though I’m one of those people who’s always cold, who is perfectly comfortable in a room that’s pushing 90 degrees, I have limits. So I’ve got nothing to wear, nothing I can walk out the door in knowing I’ll be comfortable for the rest of the day, but then that’s my problem and not yours.

The weather’s beautiful right now. I just don’t trust it. It’s not my first spring.

I suspect that everyone’s spring is like this, though. Kurt Vonnegut used to talk about adding a couple of seasons to our measly four, Locking and Unlocking, to account for transition periods.

March would fall into the Unlocking category, along with April, months to be considered guilty unless proven otherwise. Months when we want to mow the lawn but really should just stay inside and watch basketball, because it could hail at any moment.

That’s all this is. It’s a transition that doesn’t fit neatly anywhere.

It’s the Hamlet of meteorological moments, indecisive and vacillating between wonderful weather and really stupid stuff, like frost on the windshield and black ice on the driveway. Our days are already outrageously long, and I hear that’s not going to change for a while.

Spring is a season off of its meds, and then just for fun we add daylight saving time into the mix in case anyone is still sane after being snowed in for most of a month.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have plenty of reasons to be outside, chores and duties and other fun things to do, and I appreciate this week’s sun and warmth.

I just know I’m being flimflammed, because I know my Pacific Northwest weather by now. I know that there are no guarantees for another few months, and even those bets are hedged. I may be watching basketball for a while.

I’m not putting my gloves away until June, in other words, and then not far away, not this year.

I’ve got pockets and pockets.


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