Last revised


L'esprit de l'escalier literally translates to spirit of the staircase. This French phrase expresses the feeling of when you think of the perfect comeback, retort, or simply what you should have said, after the event or conversation is over--you've left and gone down the stairs.  

In German, the term is Treppenwitz, "thinking of a clever remark (especially the perfect rejoinder to someone's comment) only after it is far too late to actually say it. The term is also applied to events that seem to be the result of a cosmic joke, such as the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, where the United States won the biggest victory of the war two weeks after a peace treaty had been signed."

The English terms for it are "after-wit," "stairway syndrome," or "staircase wit."

I include mention of this on for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, it's painfully accurate!  How many times have you been to a party or a celebration or dinner -- whatever -- and on your way to your car at evening's end you suddenly know the perfect thing you should have said in repartee, or some brilliant joke comes to mind that *would* have been great?

I can almost guarantee it will happen to me!  Like a delayed reaction, without fail.

I'm going to begin telling people I suffer from "Treppenwitz."

My friend Dario says his DomNi gives him brilliant flashes of insights all the time, but it's never a complete package.  Invariably some missing component shows up belatedly, like a postman delivering handlebars two days late for the tricycle he spent Christmas Eve assembling.

I used to work in a women's clothing store.  Two women came in to the shop one day, and the owners whispered to keep an eye on them, because one of them was a notorious shoplifter.  So I watched them like a hawk, or so I thought.  (Woe to my lack of Sensing skills!)  After trying on a number of items, the two women approached the counter and purchased a garment.  But something wasn't right -- I knew it, but couldn't put my finger on it.

The two women left the store, but my brain was churning wildly.  Abruptly it came to me:  the shoplifter had walked out wearing one of our sweaters -- unpaid-for!  Argh!  (And she was long gone by then.)

Of course, when I realized what had happened and told the owners, they seemed to blame me for not realizing it sooner, even though she had gotten past their eagle eyes as well.  They almost acted like it was me who stole it instead of her!  In hindsight, I probably should have kept my mouth shut.

So I've begun to think of Ni as bringing the invariable afterthought.  I almost hold out for it, like always holding a meeting up for a perpetual latecomer.

It's ironically weird to be renowned for your judging function, and yet have your life ruled by a flakey and weird perceiving function.  And so few people appreciate that!


My car door has been privy to some really great punchlines.

* * *