Friday, August 14, 2009

Ubiquitous Stupidity

It's time to introduce a new regular feature in "Tongue-in-Cheek." I'm calling it "People Are So Stupid."

If you read this column regularly (God help you), you know that last weak I had to acknowledge an error I had made. Not just any error, mind you. I catastrophic brain botching that was so foul, so heinous, so dreadfully, soul-siphoningly humiliating and inexcusable, that I dare not rehash it here.

To mitigate the sting, I'm going back to what I'm good at, which is pointing out the flaws in everyone around me.

If I gain enough momentum, I might just rename the whole column "People Are So Stupid."

You might have heard about the city code enforcement officer in Tulare, CA who shut down an eight-year-old girl's lemonade stand earlier this week because she is not a licensed street vendor?

What a nice lesson in civics for the young lady. I feel better about myself already.

Often, though, numbskull behavior is more difficult to spot because it is so ubiquitous that we don't question it.

Take landscaping, for example. Everyone I know owns a lawnmower. My neighbors all have lawnmowers -- more than one, in some cases. Even my nieces and nephews have little toy lawnmowers.

My own lawnmower comes out of the shed once per week to spend a couple of hours clipping grass and eviscerating little rubber duckies, ponies, and froggies that my daughter keeps leaving in the yard. Sometimes it will inexplicably attack a rock, which sends my pulse rate into the triple digits, presumably to supply more blood to the part of my brain responsible for cursing.

Why is my lawnmower so psychotic? Well, it sits in the shed with nothing to do but sulk and make fun of the weed-whacker and the chain saw, which get even less attention.

I assume yours suffers similar confinement. And so do your wheelbarrow, lawn sprinkler, barbecue grill, children, socket set, circular saw, birth control, fishing pole, crock pot, and gas-powered toilet plunger with built-in mp3 player -- none of these items see the light of day more than once in a while, but you've still got to have your very own.

How much money could you save with just a little willingness to negotiate and cooperate with your neighbors? Yes, actually speak with them. "I'll use it on Mondays, you use it on Tuesdays," that sort of thing (plan your clogged toilets accordingly).

Answer: it doesn't matter, because you'll never do it.

For one thing, this isn't the 1940s, when people's neighbors were not (openly) jaded, drug-dealing pedophiles. But more importantly, there's just something about having our own widgets that gives us Americans the jollies.

It's that spirit of self-reliance handed down through our rugged New England culture from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau -- although, when they discussed "self-reliance," they meant using your ingenuity to live simply and frugally (i.e. sharing land or tools) so the government doesn't start thinking it has to buy your health insurance.

But never mind that. We're Reagan/Bush Americans, now. We're not about to have some freeloading hippie messing around with our weed whacker or our Salad Shooter or our bunker full of restricted weaponry and ammunition. If you need something, even just once, go buy your own. It's every man for himself if we are to maintain our historically unparalleled standard of living, fueled by hyper-independence and consumption.

At least until the code enforcement officer shows up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he will not loan to neighbors.

Henry David Thoreau