Archive for August, 2009

Stupidity and Pick-up Lines

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

I’ve been spending a lot of time at UCLA lately with Son #2, as he prepares to start college. I’m happy to report, we have yet to run into any stupers (short for mercilessly stupid persons).  That is…until yesterday.

As we canvassed the huge campus (I easily walked six miles from the residence hall to the book store; well, it was actually one mile, but it sure felt like six with the hills and valleys we crossed), I eyed a clean-cut fellow, a bit too old to be a student, as he appeared to be hovering around the ripe old age of thirty, dressed in a sport jacket and slacks roaming about. He looked quasi official, as if he might be capable of offering needed information. Feeling a bit frustrated, as we’d just circled the maze-like, Math Science building three times in search of Room 121 B, I was about to ask the fellow for directions when he suddenly approached two young women walking toward him.

“Hey! I know you,” He enthusiastically told one of the ladies.

“Really?” She smiled and waited for him to shed some light.

He finally said, “Do you have a friend called ‘Potato?'”

“Uh, no, ” she replied, made a face and started to walk away.

“Are you sure?” he insisted.

“I think I’d remember a friend named Potato.”

“Weren’t you at that party last Sunday night at Fran’s?” He called after her.

And so on, with Son, me and the woman’s companion the hapless audience members, as the guy continued to fumble along, insisting he knew the girl. If there is a Guinness World Book of Records for worst pick-up lines, this would make a strong entry.

I once knew a boy called “Cucumber,” but that was in the third grade, and his nickname was pinned on him thanks to a buzz haircut and a sallow complexion which made him resemble a freshly picked cucumber. Fortunately, “Cucumber” grew out of that name a short time later.

Pick-up lines do not work. Recent research backs this up. A study by psychologists at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh put a host of pickup lines to the test on 205 undergraduates, who rated whether they would be likely to continue the conversation. The results, as my intelligent readers may imagine, were unfavorable. According to this same study, the types of lines that do work are tinged with helpfulness, generosity, cultural literacy and sincerity. Any other varieties of lines are typically uttered by stupers.

Son and I ultimately found the classroom we sought in another smaller, unmarked structure across from the Math Science building. Clearly the configuration of classes at this University is designed to keep idiots away.

Just think.


Stupidity on Hiatus for Book Review: The Weight of Silence Blogtour

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

After I decided to shove aside stupidity and take the ladies at MotherTalk up on an opportunity to review The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf, I felt instant regret. A novel about missing children and possible abduction is not high on my readability list. But despite my trepidations about the topic,  from the moment I opened this book to the last page, I was hopelessly hooked. Dirty dishes be damned! My hair would dry on its own for once! I could not bring myself to put this hypnotic, page turner down.

The simple story is distinguished by the unusual nature of the protagonist: sweet, sensitive, seven-year old Calli is a selective mute,* unable to speak since suffering a tragedy as a toddler. Her classmate, Petra, is her best friend and voice. Both, coincidentally, go missing early one morning, disappearing from their homes. Calli’s abductor, a dubious, no-good character, is revealed early on to readers, but this kidnapper’s intention is unclear. Petra’s disappearance is more complex. The only trace they leave behind is a bare footprint in the dirt near Calli’s home. The chase is on as local sheriffs, the FBI, Calli’s mother and brother, along with Petra’s father, attempt a rescue mission to locate the little girls. Reader anxiety builds as suspects mount.

Employing multiple narrators with many distinct voices, the reader is provided a glimpse into the mind of each character from Antonia, Calli’s emotionally wounded mother, to Martin, Petra’s mild, but doggedly determined father, and even includes the voices of the missing girls. Their friendship is revealed through a series of flashbacks. The story manages to race forward despite the different voices and perspectives thanks to the well crafted chapters that ably exhibit the author’s care and creativity.

In The Weight of Silence, seemingly average people rise to the challenge of locating the children. The book as a whole does a fine job of ruminating on facing fears and finding truth.

Suspense is consistently maintained throughout the story.  The plot is tantalizing (who snatched the girls and will they be rescued in time?); the reader is kept guessing until the climax. I needed to know what was going to happen next. Hence, the book was attached to my right hand until I completed it. In the end, the book’s impact derives mostly from its assured execution.

If you’re up for a suspenseful read, this is it. Many thanks to the ladies at MotherTalk and especially to Project Manager, Lauren Sleeper, for giving me the opportunity to provide this review.

*If only stupers (short for untantalizingly stupid persons) could somehow become selective mutes or just plain mute.

Keep thinking.


Stupidity Holds Us Up

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Stupers (short for convincingly stupid persons) have an annoying knack for getting in our way. They trip us up; then, while we lay sprawled on our bellies, they plant a shoddy foot on our weary backs, trying to keep us from getting back up, as Erica demonstrates in her letter to me below:

Dear Keli:

I have a problem at work. It’s the customers. Not all of them. Only the really stupid ones. The shop I work in (it’s an antique store) closes daily at 5:30. Lately, right between 5:25 and 5:30, idiots arrive, act like they’re actually going to purchase something, spend about 30 minutes browsing, don’t buy anything and then leave. I’m fifty-four years old. I get tired after standing on my feet all day. Don’t they know we’re exhausted and want to go home? It’s not like I don’t tell them. I do. But these dumb customers just don’t care! I feel obligated to stay, mainly because I can’t get them out. What do I do? I want to keep my job, but I also want to keep the sanity. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Amanda F.

This is quite coincidental, as Husband (H) mentioned that his hair stylist/cutter had one appointment left at the end of the day (this was last Friday). This appointment was supposed to be right after H. But the client called at the end of H’s cut to say she was just leaving home, and she’d be a bit late. The problem was the client lived thirty-five minutes away. H left amid murmurs of mutiny and threats of sending menacing text messages to the client. I’m not sure if H’s hair handler actually sent the messages or waited, but I can tell you how my mother successfully gets stupers out of the store where she works…most of the time.

Mom has a similar job in a retail shop; she is on her feet daily. Come 7:55, the money in the store is counted, merchandise that needs to be put away is and the employees are ready to go. Sure enough, customers breeze in at about 7:57 and decide to leisurely look around. At 8:00 pm sharp, Mom shuts off the music and the lights, then stands at the door, keys rattling. This is usually successful, except when she is confronted by exceptionally stubborn stupers.

“Then we usually end up waiting,” she told me with a deep sigh.

Here’s what I suggest: Be a stuper yourself. I don’t mean give in and stop all trace of thought, especially while operating a motor vehicle. I mean imitate a stuper. Since idiots do suffer from ROA (Rapid Onset Amnesia), you must also. Forget that the customers are in the store. Lock up the doors…with the customers inside. Make a big show of it (i.e., “I’m going to turn on the alarm now and set the guard dogs loose because I’m outta here!” for starters), and leave. Go to the nearest coffee shop and enjoy a latte or a cup of green tea and a giant snickerdoodle (you don’t have to eat it all at once).

Then return to the shop. Unlock the door. Act really surprised to find customers lurking about in there. Ignore the one who claims she is having a panic attack or, if that’s not your style, throw her the paper bag your cookie came in. Threaten to call the cops, but do be kind and allow the idiot customers to beg their way out of it. They should be really ready to leave by this time.



Stupidity in All the Wrong Places

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Americans are big on family reunions. Relatives converge at barbecues, parks and campgrounds; at my town’s last Fourth of July parade, one family created a huge float, displaying their reunion proudly and quite bravely.  Yesterday, I was forced to view two reunions of a different sort: stuper (short, yet again, for a predominantly stupid person) assemblies and not amid the safety of a parade or park.

The first took place while I drove on a busy highway. In my lane, on the right shoulder, a stuper family reunion was in progress. Not necessarily blogworthy on its own, except these moronic family members took it to the highway. Tearful embraces, Kool-Aid toasts and major back slapping all occurred in my lane, sandwiched between honking and obscene hand gestures. The idiot family was completely oblivious.

The next stuper reunion took place in Trader Joe’s market, smack in the middle of the dried fruit and nuts aisle (ironic, don’t you think?). I needed a package of raisins, but was prevented from grabbing one because an idiot family, spanning several generations,  parked themselves in the very spot I needed to be, while they feasted on samples of tiramisu and lemonade.

My pleas of  “Excuse me” soon upgraded to shouts of “Move it!” before I got my package. The reunionists gave me severely dirty looks for interrupting their joyful gathering.

Feeling rather flammable by this time, I decided to head home. Unfortunately, my car needed gas. I stepped into the Mini Mart in a huff to pay for the gas and was suddenly disarmed by a small, elf-like fellow, wearing little round glasses, sporting an indeterminate accent and being of an uncertain age. If Santa’s little helpers take jobs during the off season, then this certainly was one of them. All smiles and cheerfulness, he not only thanked me for coming in, but offered the following advice (Keep in mind, dear readers, that I was not the only customer in the Mart, but was singled out by this pixie for reasons I still haven’t quite figured out; I thought I hid my flammability fairly well):

“Remember, it’s okay to lose your money. You can always get it back. But never, ever allow yourself to lose your head. Getting that back…well, I’m not so sure.”

For a moment there, I wondered if this was a backward attempt at apologizing about taking money from me for pumping gas. Or perhaps he was offering me a refund in advance? The happy fellow watched so intently for my reaction, I suddenly felt transparent. I thought I appeared so calm and collected on the outside. Maybe, my irritation with the stuper family reunions showed.

I thanked him and left. While I pumped, a guy who’d witnessed the whole scene walked by me and laughed, circling his index finger, next to his temple. He said,

“The guy’s batty.”

I wasn’t so sure.

In our daily lives, there is much we have to endure. We bear all sorts of frustrations, worries and annoyances. By cultivating and developing patience, destructive emotional energies within us won’t have the chance to surface to take control and often misdirect us. I failed in the developing patience department on this day, or for at least part of the day. But thankfully, I was redirected by a few right words from a surprise source. Whether he was batty or not,  he was on to something.

Think first, last and always.


The Sixth Sense and Stupidity

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Most of us thinking, breathing humans have five senses. Stupers (short for militantly stupid persons) however, carry around a sixth sense that the rest of us lack. Don’t worry; you’ll be glad you’re missing this one.

Husband (H) drove on a busy highway; a highway that conjures up a warm, special, holiday pudding type of feeling in the hearts of all Caltrans workers, as this stretch of the road has been under construction for over a decade. H’s was the third vehicle in a line of cars traveling around the speed limit of 65 mph.

A sign appeared on one side of the highway, warning, “Flagger ahead.”

A Caltrans worker, sporting the usual trendy (in the highway worker fashion industry) nylon, orange vest, stood down the road, on the side, head slightly tilted, mouth somewhat ajar, arms folded across his burly chest, staring off into the distant horizon, daydreaming undoubtedly of beers and bubble baths (I’ve heard this ale and soap suds combo is big with 4 out of 9 Caltrans workers).

Suddenly, as the lead car in front of H approached, the worker sprang to life. He ran out into the middle of the highway, frantically waving a stop sign above his empty, helmet clad head. The lead vehicle slammed on the brakes, tires screeching, swerving into the opposing lane, which fortunately was empty. The second car skidded, and H, swearing loudly, as he is wont to do in such situations, nearly spun out. The vehicle behind H maneuvered into the shoulder to avoid rear-ending H, barely missing the frantic worker, who scrambled to avoid the oncoming cars. Needless to say, the idiot worker had to deal with several irate drivers.

As ably demonstrated above, stupidity is hazardous. It causes irritation, annoyance, frustration and can even trigger aggression on the part of the receiver(s). In fact, stupidity specialists (namely myself) are now wringing their hands over the huge caseload of untreatable, highly resistant stupidity. Why resistant? Because we have just learned the cause of stupidity stems from an innate sixth sense, highly tuned in stupers. What is this sense? Nonsense.

Nonsense is accelerating in all settings, directly compromising our outcomes. “Directly compromising” is euphemistic. What it really means is that we will eventually lose our minds if we don’t do something. Again, violence is not the answer unless one is particularly attracted to rooms with bars (not the kind with shot glasses and olives, but the decorative, practical, steel enforced variety) and license plate making.

Every person is responsible for making a better world by planting the seeds of patience and harmony deeply in the human heart. Eventually, these seeds will blossom, bringing benefit to all. The authentic, intelligent human is the one who knows how to face challenges with sympathy and understanding. The mark of a great person lies in how he/she faces daily irritations. We owe it to humankind to exercise safety and thought in all of our undertakings. Yes, the Caltrans worker behaved idiotically, but wouldn’t it be better to focus on the fact that besides severe wear and tear on the brakes of the approaching cars, no one was hurt? A grateful heart offsets the ill effects of an encounter with stupidity and helps us to maintain proper perspective and peace of mind.

Try thinking.


Stupidity and Karma

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

It’s tremendously satisfying as well as entertaining to witness the punishment of an act of stupidity moments after it occurs.

A few years ago, Son #2 and I waited in the car at the local college to pick up Son #1. While we sat, a large pick-up truck pulled in a nearby spot. As the occupant closest to us climbed out of the passenger side, a medium size, white paper bag tumbled out after him. A thinking, considerate human would have automatically picked up the bag and put it back in the truck or thrown it out in a nearby trash can, or at least conducted a quick scan around him for onlookers who’d hopefully shame him out of acting moronically. But this stuper (short again for a predominantly stupid person) glanced at the forlorn bag lying on the asphalt, and then kicked it underneath the truck.

“That’s bad karma right there,” I informed my amused child.

The dimwit next took out a skateboard from the bed of the truck, no doubt late for class, placed one foot on the board and kicked off into…where else? The main drag of the parking lot, filled with drivers hell-bent on finding parking spots.

As a car turned towards the supremely stupid skateboarder at that very moment, he suddenly lost his balance, fell off the board and hard on his butt onto the unyielding asphalt. The car screeched to a halt. The hapless fellow managed to stagger back to his feet, then winced as he rubbed his sorry ass posterior.

I’ve taught my kids never to laugh at the misfortune of others, but when I gave Son #2 a “What did I tell you?” look, he was grinning.

Sometimes there is immediate justice in this world. I’m glad I was there to witness it.

Why not think?