As I left McDonald’s after lunch I walked past a woman cleaning the trash cans. Nearly every time I’ve been in this restaurant she’s been there — cleaning the tables, sweeping the floor, running meals out to drive-thru customers, and so on. I swear she’s the hardest worker in the place, and yet the main reason I know her name is because her management is constantly yelling it, calling to her so they can dispatch her on a new errand. Very unprofessional, in my opinion.
Anyway, as I was leaving I decided to give her a compliment so I said “Keep up the good work.” She responded “Yeah” and kept wiping, as if I had just told her to work harder.
It occurred to me that while what I heard myself say was “Keep up the good work,” she may have heard “Keep up the good work.” While I thought I was praising her, she may have thought I was criticizing her.
Which gets to today’s challenge: Write a scene where one character attempts to praise another by using ambiguous words which that second person interprets in the worst possible way. When the first person, still speaking ambiguously, tries to clarify things the misinterpretation just gets worse.
Bonus points if you then write a second scene replacing the faint praise with veiled insults and the second person interprets them as praise.
As always I look forward to reading your scenes. Enjoy!