Word of the Day: cavil

According to the calendar, we are 13 days away from the Academy Awards telecast, which means that the annual Oscar Word of the Day tradition is upon us. This year, there are 10 nominees for Best Picture, which means 10 stories inspired by these movie choices.

In years past, it was comparatively simple to find something thematic to unify the nominations and, therefore, the series of stories I would write. With 10 nominees, it was much, much more challenging.

After weeks of thinking about it, I finally hit on a common theme. Guilt. All of these movies are leavened with a fair amount of it. So, I just figured over the course of the next two weeks of stories, I would just heap a hearty helping of additional guilt into each of the movies. It’ll be a guiltapalooza. Fun, huh?

I will start by doling out a measure of guilty-goodness to Up in the Air.

Today’s Word:


As in:

Career Transition Counselor Ryan Bingham was on his way to his fourth layoff of the week. The last few weeks had been a particularly challenging series of engagements, as all of the people had reacted especially poorly. Nearly 25% of those he’d made his “What’s In Your Backpack?” speech to had found creative ways to use their backpacks to take their own lives. One had even hanged himself with the straps of his backpack.

Worse even than that, was the case of Lyle Forman, who seemed fine when he had left the office with his box of desk decorations and other personal objects, but had come back a week later with a gun and shot his supervisor and three others before he shot himself.

This job was just not the same any more.

Maybe he could blame the economy. As times got tougher, people were bound to take his particular brand of news much worse than they had when things were a bit easier. Maybe he had lost his touch, and his brand of compassionate, motivational message delivery was no longer sufficient to successfully and peacefully transition people from the world of gainful employment to the world of uncertainty, financial worry, self-doubt and depression.

Bingham wondered if these stories meant that he himself was going to have to face “career transition.” He smirked for a moment, thinking that of all the reasons he’d expected to possibly lose his job, he’d never expected it would be related to adverse employee reactions. He’d always been good at his job, and never had this much fallout.

He’d always guessed that he’d be more in danger from those who’d cavil on about the cost of sending him personally to conduct his business, or who were unhappy about his own personal carbon foot print reaching more than 10 million travel miles. He’d weathered those trifling concerns for years, but always thought they’d someday win. He just never expected that they’d have a body count to buoying them past triviality.

And he wondered if he would have to actually reflect on the only tangible measure of his life, his mileage counter. He had avoided thinking about such things because it ran contrary to his happy philosophical niche. He liked watching those numbers climb.He liked living out of his backpack, free of connections. He didn’t want to be confronted with the superficiality of his existence. Life was really easier if you didn’t reflect on this sort of thing.

Sensing the danger, he beckoned to the flight attendant and ordered several adult beverages. Shaking himself out of his serious thoughts, he sipped his beverage, and welcomed the return of sweet oblivion.

Yeah, that’s some guilt, I’d say. Welcome to Monday.

cavil / CA – vil / to raise trivial or frivolous objections. Makes you wonder who gave Dean Stockwell’s Battlestar Galactica character his more than fitting name, doesn’t it?