To Boldly Go

“That’ll be three fifty, ma’am.”

I hand over a scruffy five-dollar bill for my bag of milk-chocolate mini bars. “Make it so.”

The convenience-store attendant’s head snaps up. “Did you just say, ‘Make it so’?”

Wearing a rolled-up bandana headband, creased jeans, and a t-shirt of a shade that resolutely obscures its cleanliness or lack thereof, the tattoed and five-o’clock-shadowed cashier pauses in the act of tucking my bill into the cash register. A bit late in the game I consider lying and sidling out, but that would be cruel. We should be able to trust our ears.


I pause, calculating whether I should finish the routine. Oh well, in for a penny.

“I always wanted to be a starship captain.”

There now, I’ve gone and lied anyway. I’ve never actually longed for a command position on a ship hurtling at warp speed across unmapped galaxies, making life-and-death decisions quickly and with aplomb while wearing a burgundy-and-black figure-hugging uniform. After all, burgundy is so not my colour.

Nevertheless, this is my standard comeback when someone reacts to my adaptation of Jean-Luc Picard’s oft-used line to his first officer: “Make it so, Number One.”

In the context of a suggestion just made by that first officer, an order anticipated as it were, it’s a command at once gracious and regal. Gracious in acknowledging and accepting the input, regal in clearly retaining the authority to make the call.

Of course, using “Make it so” in a convenience-store exchange is a bit silly, and using humour to connect with a stranger is a bit risky. Using a dated cultural reference as the basis of that humour is, perhaps, both silly and risky. And that’s when I’m inside my normal cultural milieu.

But driving from Ottawa to Phoenix in January, we have, somewhere, crossed an east-west line marking a great cultural divide. A line where dark chocolate stops being routinely available in convenience stores, and where convenience-store clerks — scruffy or not — start calling me “ma’am.”

As Unshaven Bandana Guy hands me my change, he grins, and I relax. He either gets the joke, or realizes, at least, that it is a joke.

As I turn toward the door, he says, “Have a nice evening, ma’am.”

And then he pauses, maybe making his own calculations. Oh well, in for a penny.

“And God bless.”

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10 Responses to To Boldly Go

  1. Ralph Gibson says:


  2. Oh, how delightful, Isabel. You illuminate communication. The tinkling of chimes and bells in an age when all hope seemed lost. God bless you, ma’am.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Thanks kindly! Geographically, I’m still looking for that, umm, sweet spot where I can find both dark chocolate and “ma’am.” I foresee a road-trip research project . . .

  3. Here is a secret: I’ve never told my John (my partner of 39 years), even as we watched a hundred re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that William Riker (No. 1) was the spitting image of my first husband, right down to the handsome looks, the smile, voice, the mannerisms, beard config, the laugh, hands…very spooky. Didn’t think I needed to have burdened John with that, do you?

    John eventually met Don when he was 60 or so and the bloom had def. gone off, leaving that central wispy bit in the middle of a balding head. I see in later pics of Frakes, he, too, is balding in that same unbecoming manner.
    Shave it! Make it un-so!

    Photo of Jonathan Frakes — the doppleganger…

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yes, unburdened seems like the right choice here. Maybe always. And how delightful that John has aged so, well, delightfully. The contrast is just the icing on the cake.

  4. Judith says:

    So funny! You don’t have to go to space to find we’re from different worlds…and the same world.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Yup. As my Glaswegian acquaintance would say, “This is us, connecting.”

  5. Judith says:

    Playing with words is one of life’s joys. Playing with strangers is its own delight.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Yes, it’s always fun to find/make that connection where one had no real reason to suspect it was there.

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