Meyer is in David Brooks’ office. The two men are at odds in a heated debate on proper usage of dashi-dashes.
“First things first” David Brooks says to Meyer, “when using ‘which is’ or ‘which was,’ instead using either just use a dashi-dash” David Brooks tells Meyer. Meyer says nothing. David Brooks continues. “Secondly” David Brooks says, “when using dashes or dashi-dashes, the most important aspect in this generally is to employ your own sense of creativity” David Brooks says, “for example, consider this sentence” David Brooks says and begins typing, “Building and maintaining order — whether artistic, political or global — seems elementary, but it’s surprisingly hard” David Brooks types.
“Frame that sentence without using dashi-dashes” David Brooks says to Meyer. Without hesitation Meyer responds, “Building and maintaining order, whether artistic, political or global seems elementary, but it’s surprisingly hard” Meyer types firmly.
“That’s not bad” David Brooks says, “but it’s not good” he says adding. “Why is it not good?” Meyer asks insulted. “Well, it’s not that it’s shameful” David Brooks says to Meyer, “but it’s not good” David Brooks adds, “how it reads it’s not good” David Brooks tells him. “How so” Meyer asks unconvinced, “how is it so as you say that it does not read well?” Meyer adds this with emphasis.
“The final parse, of course” David Brooks says, “or the middle part rather” he then adds correcting his error. “Political or global seems elementary is what you write and is what I read” David Brooks continues, “but building and maintaining order is surprisingly hard is your conclusion” David Brooks says, “it’s your comma” he says, “your comma is the problem” David Brooks tells him.
“Is it really my problem” Meyer retorts and was disgusted, “or is it really just the smell of your own farts that insists it’s a problem” Meyer says this half-joking but was playful. “Readers of the The Big Man Times” David Brooks responds, his eyes raise and his head pushes forward, “are intelligent readers” he begins, “we at The Times know this and that I assure you” David Brooks says, “no one who reads this will be thrown from the rails because of your comma, but why should you use it when you would know better?” David Brooks asks this but continues without pause, “many of our readers will know better” he tells Meyer, “and when they see your comma they will wonder whether the author would have known better, too” David Brooks tells him. “We have a reputation here at The Times” David Brooks adds this detail needlessly.
“Many people read your newspaper” Meyer answers unconvinced. Meyer continues, “I read your newspaper, many read your newspaper, do trust me that not everyone cares” Meyer says, “your intel on this is shit” he insists adding.
David Brooks shakes his head, “I think this discussion” he stamps with emphasis, “has thrown itself from the rails” he says to Meyer, “I think you’ve misread me and perhaps maybe I’ve done you the same” he tells Meyer, “I think we both may know more on our respective differences than maybe we had thought” David Brooks offers Meyer. Meyer says nothing. “Dashes and dashi-dashes” David Brooks continues…
Meyer was sitting in his chair. He was willing to give David Brooks one more try to convince him his angle on dashes and dashi-dashes was practical, near-necessary, and above all else that David Brooks was sincere.
“We here at The Times have unmatched intel on this sort of matter” David brooks says to Meyer, “and this I’d presume you must know” he tells Meyer, “and I presume also as well that your description of it as shit is an example of your sensibly sardonic sense of humor” David Brooks says to Meyer adjusting his glasses.
It was true. Meyer’s comment was sardonic but was accurate, and was on a part but not its whole.
“My dashes and dashi-dashes” David Brooks says continuing, “I use them as how I use them because it’s how I know best, because my career has taught me to” David Brooks says, “it had took me many years to settle on a system of way that’s durable through years” David Brooks tells him. Meyer nods. His mouth opens slightly. His jaw twists. David Brooks continues, “this is very nuanced stuff you know, not really so important” he says, “but still, I guess we’re talking on it are we not?” David Brooks asks Meyer. Meyer grins, “yes we are” Meyer tells him. David Brooks winced. He appreciates the rare moment of ease from Meyer.
“I think dashes and dashi-dashes may make writing easier, as for one aspect of it’s appeal, and also, rarely is dashi-dashes off-putting to the senses of readers” David Brooks says and was contented.
“What’s off-putting to the senses of readers if not dashi-dashes?” Meyer asks and was sharp. Meyer’s comment forces David Brooks to take himself back. David Brooks again winced. “Anything can, obviously” David Brooks answers. “Then why not dashes and dashi-dashes” Meyer shoots back but was modest.
David Brooks forces a gasp though it was meager. He does not care to answer Meyer. “It’s standard, every paper does it this way” David Brooks says to Meyer. “True but not true” Meyer fires back but was soft, “you have your own method of way for using dashi-dashes, you’ve said this and I see it, I do read your column” Meyer says insisting. “Do you even realize Meyer how hyper-focused you are on this, it’s not so very important” David brooks says reasoning, “I’ve not really actually thought it out before” he then adds. “I don’t believe that’s true” Meyer says in a punch, “we are talking on it after all are we not” Meyer quickly adds. “I’ve felt it out, Meyer” David Brooks responds, “these aren’t things you think out, it is useless and a tremendous waste of your time to ever think them out” he insists. Meyer winced.
“Are you a professor on dashi-dashes or are you a writer” David Brooks asks Meyer rhetorically. Meyer’s jaw twists. His mouth was shut but was not sealed. David brooks has mustered his own swagger, it was organic, he could not help it. Meyer would not give this much leeway, not in this regard, not on this certain aspect of their knowings on each other. Meyer thought to speak, but would not, he could not humor it and so he would not honor it. David Brooks slunk soon back into himself and the moment was over. Meyer released his jaw and spit a few lines of bullshit, to cover the tracks of missteps he’d made to get there. David Brooks adjusts his glasses.