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Here is one story retold, albeit with a pithier ending:
What happened: On the way to pick up a tuna sandwich from my favourite shop on Sutton Ground yesterday, I was acosted by an ITN camera/presenter team. Excuse me sir, said the woman with the fuzzy mic, but could you tell me what you think about being asked to pay more money to fund political parties? Slightly off-stride and with a man poking a shoulder-mounted camera up my nostril, I rattled off some vaguely coherent thoughts: that there was no way that private donations (cash or fringe benefits) could be stopped; and why should the public pay to be subjected to party political broadcasts?
Esprit descalier kicked in as soon as I was safely between the refrigerated racks of Simply Sandwiches. There are a hundred perfectly good answers to this question and, in that split second, I hadnt been able to think of one of them. No wonder that the street-surveys on TV news show such moronic opinions: thats what you get when you interrupt people trying to pick up their lunch and interrogate them on national democratic policy.
What I said: At least I managed to say that I disagreed with any extension of the state funding parties.
What I SHOULD have said: So the proposal is to stop rich people freely donating to political parties in favour of forcing poorer people to do it instead? That sounds like a great idea.
The French call it l'esprit d'escalier, "the wit of the staircase," those biting ripostes that are thought of just seconds too late, on the way out of the room-or even, to tell the truth, days later. It's happened to you: you've suddenly thought of just what would put your foe in his or her place, but past the time when the arrow could sting its victim. You've stewed in your own juice ever since, and the chance for singeing repartee is gone forever.
Or is it?
Dorothy Parker or Oscar Wilde may have had the rapier wit to tweak their tormentors on the spot, but for the rest of us, we offer the Internet's only L'esprit d'escalier web site!