MENCKEN for Monday:"An errand is that on which a boy is...

Salmagundi

December 13, 1993

MENCKEN for Monday:

"An errand is that on which a boy is sent, thus presumably saving the time and energy of an elder. To accomplish the errand to perfection, it must be assumed that the boy will not stop to read a newspaper, or listen to the end of a radio program, or search for a handkerchief, or stop to pull his sister's hair or play with the dog, before setting out. It must be assumed further that, once he has set out, he will not meet a friend on the way who suggests some delightful but demoralizing plan, and that he will not stop to throw stones, play baseball, climb a tree or swap what he has in his pocket for something somebody else has in his pocket. It must be assumed that, in reasonable time he arrives at his destination, remembers what he has been sent for and has not lost the money to pay for what he has been sent for; or, if he has forgotten, that he will have the intelligence to call up the person who has sent him on the errand and ask for supplementary instructions. It must be assumed that he accomplishes the errand with such expedition and dispatch that there is no need for the sender to pace the floor impatiently, exclaiming from time to time, 'Whatever can have become of the boy?' or 'He could have been there and back a dozen times by now!' "

In short, an errand calls for such a multiplicity of ideal circumstances that its successful conclusion is a highly doubtful possibility. Such being the case, it is perhaps the part of wisdom to forgo the temptation of sending a boy on an errand and, instead to attend to the errand yourself."

-- H. L. Mencken in The Evening Sun, April 3, 1937

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