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Words I Love

Schadenfreude (sh├Ąd n-froi d)

n. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

[German: Schaden, damage + Freude, joy]

Sometimes, when walking down a hallway, escalator, or street, you encounter a mutant from outer-space who doesn't understand that the movements of pedestrian traffic should mirror that of our vehicles.  Quite simply, you're supposed to walk on the right, pass on the left (or vice versa in some countries), and make honking noises at women if you feel so inclined.

So you stop short of a horrible collision with this ungrateful fumbler who acts as if you're suddenly wasting his time.  You've now become an unwilling partner in a dance that will continue until one of you takes the lead.  Usually you take between 1-3 steps before an agreement is reached, and it's a very slow and awkward negotiation process.  Relative to a bicycle, that is.

And so it was on that sunny, Tuesday afternoon that I had the pleasure to witness two cyclists pedaling toward each other at a leisurely pace on a broad and otherwise empty boulevard, enjoying the spring breeze and absolutely confident that the other person would swerve first.  As their imminent problem became clearer, they both took the same evasive actions, careening right, then left, and then colliding with a spectacular clatter in which the only casualty was pride.  The sheer improbability of such an event made this little comedy immensely enjoyable, like watching two snowballs thump together in midair.  

Here's another textbook example:

While watching a business man on a train snort back a wad of mucus into the back of his throat and make those sounds of preparation for hocking a loogie, I was appalled to realize that the animal intended to spit his gob on the floor of our crowded car.  He worked it around in his mouth for a moment, gauging its weight, consistency, as well as the transient air currents in the train car.  But somehow the man miscalculated the necessary force and launch angle, and the sloppy mass landed on his expensive suit jacket.  He swore under his breath and tried unsuccessfully to brush it off, while I tried to contain my laughter.

Damn, that was funny.


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