I had gone into the Blue Lantern Bar on Geary Street, in the San Francisco Tenderloin. I sat down at the bar, and the guy next to me started telling me about all the things that are wrong about the world, how the young kids today just don't take care about things, etc. etc. etc. So I just listened to him without answering.
Finally, he said, ``You certainly are an agreeable chap. I think I could say anything whatsoever, and you'd just sit there and smile and nod.''
So I loooked at him and said, ``My experience has been that it never pays to argue with drunks.''
And he answered indignantly, ``I'm not drunk.''
I knew that it would be wise to withhold the thought that went through my head, but he seemed old enough so that he probably wasn't going to hit me, so I went ahead and said it. ``As to that, I couldn't say since, never having seen you sober, I have no standard of comparison.''
He thought about that for a few moments, then finally said, ``Could you repeat what you just said?''
And I thought, ``Oh shit! Now I've really got myself into trouble.'' But I went ahead and told it to him again: ``I was just saying that I can't tell whether you're drunk or not because, having never seen you sober, I have no standard of comparison.''
And to my relief he said, ``You have a really nice way of phrasing things. `Standard of comparison,' that's really good. You must be a writer or something.''