Tips on Being Totally Adequate

In this confusing world in which we live, where it’s always “rush-rush-rush” and “Would you like whip on that Viente?” and “You’re standing on my foot,” we need to take a step back and think about what really matters. In the end, we’re all just people trying to get along and get by. Don’t you think that if we were all kind to each other and went out of our way to help on another that this would be a better world for all of us?

But being kind and helpful takes far too much work; who has that kind of the time and energy? Plus, we’d feel silly and might be ridiculed by others, and we should always let our actions be governed by peer pressure. As the saying goes, “To appear to be wise, let your peers be your guides.”

However, it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to be more adequate. In fact, you may find that being adequate is actually more time-efficient than other approaches. We needn’t really change the way we do things at all, except that when faced with a choice of behaviors we pick the one that causes the least disruption, so that everyone can get on with their business.

Here are some tips for leading a more adequate life:

When someone does something really nice for you, like giving you a present or saving your life, be sure to look vaguely in their direction and smile slightly. No thanks is necessary, because someone close enough to you to do this for you must know how you feel.

When you are driving along, approaching an intersection where you will turn and you see someone waiting for you because they think you’re going straight instead, don’t use the turn signal. Using it would let the person know that you intend to turn and they could go ahead, but that’s just forcing them into the awkward position of trusting you to not go straight anyway and plow into them. Also, a turn signal is just one more piece of blinking data in this already information-littered world; by not turning it on, you’re letting that other person’s brain relax slightly, enjoying the time that they spend waiting for you to possibly drive past. Besides, it’s so much effort to flick the turn signal stick; save that energy for more important things, like walking to get your next cup of coffee.

When you’re approaching a doorway and someone is there holding the door open for you, don’t acknowledge them. They were just doing this to be kind, and derived full enjoyment of it from the action. It would just be awkward if you thanked them.

Don’t make cruel jokes about others behind their backs; that would be mean. But do laugh when others do so. The victim is not even present and wouldn’t know, but the person making the jokes would be hurt if you didn’t play along. Besides, they might make fun of you next time unless they think you’re one of them.

These are just examples, and can’t begin to cover the full spectrum of ways in which you could lead a more adequate life. Think of them as parables. Or as allegories, without the annoying animals. Look for their inner meaning and see how you can apply it to your daily routine, and I think you’ll find yourself becoming totally adequate.


Bedtime Stories

Dylan Thomas mumbled, “I can’t remember whether I drank for six days and six nights when I was twelve or was sick for twelve days and twelve nights when I drank.” And then passed out into the guacamole. Again.

I was hanging out again with Dylan, working through the remnants of a six-pack of scotch. I was asking his opinion on reading bedtime stories to children, but was having trouble getting anything more out of him in his brief periods of consciousness than a few hiccups and a belch or two.

It’s my studied opinion that reading to kids is a horrible experience. It sounds great from the outside, of course: you get time with your child and you get to read them the classics and the books that you loved from your childhood. Plus, it’s a great excuse for climbing into bed early and avoiding tedious responsibilities around the house like unstopping the toilet in the downstairs bathroom or putting out the small electrical fire in the laundry room.

But then you encounter the reality of it: kids don’t want to hear what you want to read. You approach the situation with goals of reading Wind in the Willows, or The Hobbit, or passages from Freud, but your kids complain that they’re not enjoying your selection and hand you a Dora picture book. How compelling can it be when the girl’s best friends are a map, a backpack, and a fox that steals her stuff?

So I put it to Dylan as he lay moaning on the table, “Is it better to read anything than not read at all?”

Dylan muttered something unintelligible in Welsh with too many L’s and slumped to the floor. A brilliant man, Dylan, and a heckuva guy to have over when you wanted a game of Parcheesi and a hangover for the following week. But it was always difficult reading the his meaning. It’s the poet’s way: using words carefully to impart imagery and beauty while completely eluding comprehension.

I would rather stick to my principles and keep reading my choices of Hume, Descartes, and essays from Bloch to the kids, but then they pull out their ultimate defensive weapon: they fall asleep. So is it worth trying to educate them against their will, or should I just give up and have them enjoy their bedtime stories instead? Do I send them to bed wiser for the experience, yet crying in horror from Dante’s descriptions of Hell? Or do they go to bed happy and satisfied, knowing that once more Swiper has been defeated by the clutch timing of a knapsack?

Dylan was awake later, licking the grout on the tile floor, hoping for remnants of a fantastic vindaloo we’d had that evening, when he gave me his answer: “Do not go gentle into that Good Night Moon.”

Then he fell asleep with his face in the dog's bowl.


Little Jokes for Friday

I wonder, sometimes, about death and dying. For instance:

Do undertakers re-hearse?

Do grave diggers have coffin fits?

Do dead footmen get headstones?

If a story lacks plot, is it just not grave enough?


When I am King: Entitlement

When I am King...

We will all have important-sounding titles next to our names.

My kids’ school has a new principal who sends out emails to the parents every week, always making sure to sign it with his name, “Dr. Feeg Cremble.” And that’s really nice, because I don’t know about you, but I find it totally reassuring that the principle has a graduate degree. I don’t know what I’d do if he was just an ordinary guy with enough educational background to become principle. So of course I would want to know his educational qualifications with every email he sends. I may have forgotten since his last email, so it’s great that he reminds us all every time.

This use of “doctor” is typical and expected with medical doctors, of course. We want them to tell us that they are doctors so that when someone in the room gets sick, we know whom to sue for malpractice.

But that’s not the people I’m talking about – I’d like to focus on the ones with academic degrees. I mean, I’m sure that becoming a surgeon is difficult and time-consuming, but think about the poor guy that spent 5 years in grad school crashing frat parties until the university finally gave him a degree just to get rid of him? He needs just as much attention as that other profession, so it’s right that he lay claim to it as often as possible.

There are many non-medical people that I’ve met that have “Dr.” on their business cards or signatures, or that introduce themselves as Dr. SoAndSo. But I don’t feel we have enough of this in our society. I know that there must be more PhDs in education, science, and art that we need to know about. And, in fact, we should know more about everyone through their titles. Why would I just want to know someone’s name and possibly their married status when they introduce themselves, when I could know much more about their academic qualifications?

When I am King, everyone will have titles that reflect who they are, what they’ve done, and how important they feel they are in their own world.

For example, everyone should obviously list the degrees that they have achieved, such as “BFA Music,” “MS Botany, “ and “BA Women’s Studies (minor Greek, concentration Literature).”

But even that’s not enough. How do we know how good they are in their subject? Or whether we can trust them to be the person we seek out when someone’s suffering from a sudden attack of Liberal Arts Deficit Syndrome? These titles should have enough information that everyone will know everything pertinent about you, including academics as well as occupations. Think of them as short resumes attached to your name. For example:

“Gloria Grendle, PhD Nuclear Physics, Top Secret Weapons Designer”
“Becky Bristol, 11th Grade (GPA 1.7), Skanky Barfly”
“Bob Baker, Game-winning hit 8th grade little league city championship, Town Drunk”
“Jon Brown, B.A. History (GPA 2.8), M.A. Danish History (GPA 3.2), Barista”

These new titles will be so much more informative than mere names and will save us so much time wasted in actually having to talk to people. Entire conversations can be covered just in the introductions, avoiding countless hours of wasted time actually talking to people just to determine that you have nothing in common with them. Why bother getting to know people when you can use their academic qualifications to determine whether it’s worth it?

Titles: Let’s take them to the next degree.


When I am Kindle

When I am King...

I'll offer my book for the Amazon Kindle.

Due to the overwhelming request of ones of readers, I've made the just-selling book When I am King... available for the Amazon Kindle. Now you can enjoy the experience of reading material in digital form that was originally available in digital form then published in hardcopy. Perhaps next year we will offer another hardcopy version based on the Kindle edition.

The Kindle version is unique in its own way, offering fancy "linked" entries on the Contents page, in addition to a lower price ($3.95) than the tree-based version of the book (now only $6.95). Collectors will certainly want to acquire both versions, probably multiple times.


Little Jokes for Tuesday

When your feet are asleep, are they comatoes?

If you want them awake, should you sock them?

When they wake up, are they completely heeled?


Little Joke for Friday

If a group of men can be called “brethren”, does that make a group of women a “sistern”? Or would that just be a pisser?