If is Great but Unless is Best

In As You Like It Touchstone extols the virtue and power of the word if (see Act V, Scene IV). And he’s right, but there’s another word he somehow ignores. In my experience this word is equally virtuous, equally powerful, and far more graceful. It’s unless.

Allow me to paint a picture. Let’s say a bartender is working late on the third Wednesday of last July. A patron arguably has had too much to drink, but the bartender knows him well and knows he can handle his liquor. The patron asks for another bourbon with 2 chipped ice cubes. His preferred bourbon is Blanton’s, so he’s a classy guy. Obviously, the bartender should refuse to serve anyone who has had too much to drink. Unless the bartender works at an elite country club in Connecticut and the patron is a member or a guest of a member. As you can see, unless is essential here. It dictates what the bartender should do.

Here’s another painting. Let’s say the member wants to inform the country club’s manager of the bartender’s failure to do his simple job. Such conversations where you are deciding an individual’s fate should be done in person. Unless they can be done by text. It’s called courtesy, and courtesy is vital. Unless it’s inconvenient.

At any rate it all worked out. Tinoco no longer works on Wednesdays at the club, or any other day it seems. But what’s more important is he learned the virtue, power, and grace of unless. I am sure he is a better person for it.

Treacherous Gulp, Esquire – Counsel for Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology

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