I thought Allstate Insurance signed their commercials off with the slogan: That’s Allstate, Stan. I wasn’t sure who Stan was, or why Allstate’s spokesperson, Dennis Haysbert, was so determined to explain company policy to him, but I accepted it without question. And each time the commercial faded in and then faded out, I thought, “Well, Stan? Do you get it? Do you get it now?”
Then one day, I was imitating Dennis Haysbert’s deep bass voice (at the time he was also playing President David Palmer on 24, RIP), and Phil, not too gently, showed me the error of my understanding.
We all have these examples of mishearing and living satisfied with that inaccurate interpretation. My friend thought the woman in Pearl Jam’s song couldn’t find a “Butter Man.” In Bruce’s “Blinded by the Light,” I believed another runner in the night was “wrapped up like a douche”– perhaps I assumed feminine hygiene products were a secret trick of the nighttime jogger. And of course in Alanis’s “You Oughta Know,” I wrongly figured that her ex-lover was some twisted animal Indian giver, now denying the poor girl of the cross-eyed bear he previously bestowed. I wasn’t sure why he presented his partner with an optically challenged mammal in the first place but, Alanis seems like a wacky gal, so who was I to judge?
These gaffes are acceptable for the common civilian. They are not, however, acceptable for those who should know better. For instance, Stevie Van Zandt, or even the average Bruce Springsteen groupie, should know that the correct lyrics are, “cut loose like a deuce,” which, by the way, makes about as much sense as, “wrapped up like a douche.”
I bring this all up because I’ve recently made an unacceptable blunder.
Last week, I came across the word diadem, as if for the first time.
“What the heck is a diadem?” I asked.
“A crown,” Phil said, simply. And when I returned his answer with a blank stare, he continued,”As in Rowena Ravenclaw’s lost diadem?” I continued to stare. “From Harry Potter?”
The gears in my brain rotated. Grind, grind, grind. Finally, something clicked.
I said, “You mean Rowena Ravenclaw’s lost item?”
Some quick background: I began reading each of the Harry Potter books the day they were released, and did nothing else besides eat and sleep until I finished. I saw all of the movies in the theater at least once, bought the DVD set, and have seen them all on DVD at least 4 times each. But, who hasn’t?
Aside from my extensive exposure to the word diadem, what is more condemnable was my lack of common sense. Why oh why, after dedicating so much energy and imagination to creating this vast realm of the wizarding world, after writing eight books with a total of 1.1 MILLION words, including over 100 spells and 6 other successfully identified horcruxes, would JK Rowling stop her efforts just short of specifying what exactly Rowena’s “item” was? Did I picture the author sitting at her desk, smacking her forehead with her palm, saying, “What could it be? Think, JK, think!” And then, when she couldn’t dream up a particular possession for the founder of Ravenclaw House, she just sighed and shook her head, relenting to leave it ambiguous, saying, “Screw it, I’ll just call it her misplaced object. No, I’ve got it! Her lost item!”
If that were the case, a whole new layer of complexity would be added to the movie scripts:
Luna: Well, there’s Rowena Ravenclaw’s lost item.
Ron: Oh bloody hell, here we go. (Where were they going? No one was sure.)
Luna: The lost item of Ravenclaw? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of it? It’s quite famous. (Surprisingly famous for something unnamed.)
Cho Chang: Yes. But Luna, it’s lost. For centuries now. There isn’t a person alive today who’s seen it (or even knows what it is).
What can be done to recover from my goof? I just don’t know. As Toto said in their song, “Africa,” “There’s nothing that a hundred men on Mars could ever do.”
It’ll just take time. Time heals all moods.