Fear and a bit of Loathing

Do you know what the “Cut” is? For the uninformed, it’s a maneuver where you focus your gaze somewhere over their shoulder as you pass someone by—done with an erect head and a priggish look on your face. It was insulting enough to let the other person know that they consider you beneath their station. At my Ivy League grad school, I frequently received the “cut” from those who felt that I was a parvenue, arriviste, and hopelessly working class. I’d be lying if I failed to omit that it hurt.

It took me a few years to learn to turn that around. Almost to the time, I’d decided to leave grad school. It came upon me in a thunderous clap. I walked down the corridor in a very effusive mood, and along came Jason. On seeing me, he looked like he’d bit into a lemon. On the other hand, I was in rare good humor and felt that I would be derelict in my duty if I didn’t share it.

Smiling broadly, I marched up to him, clasped him on the shoulder, pumped his hand, and started talking about some nonsense, looking and acting as though he were my long-lost best friend. It took a while for this to sink in; one doesn’t usually react with active hostility to friendliness. But confusion gave way to panic, and He fled, looking backward in terror as I grinned and waved, saying, “why don’t we meet for lunch?” I had taken an active approach to his problem.

Jason never “cut” me again. Instead, he studiously avoided me, walking rapidly away in panic. Sweet.

What was it that Emperor Tiberius was fond of saying? “Let them hate us as long as they fear us.”

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