“She must at least serve a few years of community service…”

That is not, of course, the funny part.

It’s only the beginning of a sentence recommending a, well, sentence for the lying young woman who charged a stranger with rape so she’d have someone other than her boyfriend to blame if she was pregnant (read it here).

Here’s the whole recommendation:

“She must at least serve a few years of community service, such as serving food to the old disabled people in the condolence home.”

My discomfiture at using “sentence” twice in one, okay, sentence, each time with a different meaning, is nothing to this student’s using a form of “serve” THREE times in one sentence, each time with a different meaning: serve as in “serve a sentence,” service as “the act of providing sustenance or assistance,” and “serving” as “dishing out” or “distributing.”

Then there’s the question of whether people have to be both old AND disabled to receive this food, or whether one of these afflictions would suffice. Not to mention the question of whether the old disabled people would want such a sleazy person for a waitress.

But I’ve been purposely saving for last the choicest morsel served up by my student: “the condolence home.” He couldn’t mean “convalescence home,” could he? After all, plenty of people in convalescence homes are neither old nor permanently disabled; all are, ideally, convalescing from a condition made temporary by a medical procedure or by natural healing over time. If he’s never been to a convalescence home OR to a nursing home OR to a home for the less-able elderly, perhaps he can be forgiven for not understanding that different kinds of facilities serve different populations with different needs and each has a name. I’m pretty sure he did mean “convalescence home,” but he shouldn’t have meant that, because it’s not the name of the facility that matches the population he has in mind.

Anyway, I think there really is a need for a condolence home. I can picture myself in one now: “Ah, I don’t feel so well, I’m tired but I can’t sleep, I have a funny pain in my ankle, my back is killing me, I think I’m getting cataracts, my investments aren’t doing well,” I say. “Oh, you poor, poor thing. Oh, I’m so sorry you don’t feel well. Oh, how unfair. There, there,” replies my soft-voiced silver-haired cool-handed handsome Condoler (I’ve based him on the movie doctors who always attended wealthy consumption patients in those lovely sanatoria in the Swiss Alps—remember them?).

The philanthropist who would be willing to create such a facility would be doing a great service to people like me, and creating a LOT of jobs, since I’m sure the homes would multiply as the millions of my fellow creatures who could use some condoling-with heard about them. Sign me up for the first lawn chair.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

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