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Thoughts for the Day

by Miles Mathis

by B. Kliban

I saw this on a beer I was drinking this evening: “Please drink responsibly.” Is that even possible? Next they will put a sign on cigarettes that says, “Please smoke healthily.” I will be told that “drink responsibly” just means not driving or using power tools while you are chugging that bottle of Jack Daniels. Sounds like great advice; problem is, after a couple of drinks, the thing you most want to do is drive or fire up that band saw and carve your mattress into an Absolut bottle. You see, that is what drinking does. That is what it is meant to do. That is why you drink it. If it didn't lower your inhibitions, what would be the point? It tastes like lighter fluid, so why bother?

I wish people wouldn't do stupid things when they were drunk, but drinking makes you do stupid things. Apparently, picking up a pen or using a computer keyboard also makes people do stupid things. It makes them write tags like “drink responsibly.” In other words, it makes them put words together that don't go together. Another one is “power nap.” A girl I just started dating said she was going to take a power nap. I said, “Look, you are either being powerful or you are napping. You can't do both at the same time.” It is like taking a “leisurely run”. Even a slow run is not “leisurely”, since “leisure” is not running at all. You are either running or you are not running: you can't do both simultaneously.

Another strange juxtaposition of words is the “chair massage.” Chairs are not in need of massaging, people are. People don't massage chairs, people massage people. Beyond that, how is it remotely possible to be relaxed getting a massage in public? This service is not for normal massage clients, it is for strange fetish people who get their jollies being rubbed through their clothing on busy walkways. When I walk by I always feel like I am witnessing a nasty prequel to something far nastier. I am pretty sure this is just the tip of some new taudry sex-ritual iceberg.

As a rule, government and corporate warnings never make any sense. Even when they are well intentioned, and we can understand the gist, they still always seem to be written by someone who flunked 10th grade logic, if not first grade grammar. Today's minor example is my organic soup can, which says in big block letters, “DO NOT ADD WATER.” They intend to inform you that, unlike Campbell's soup, for instance, their soup is not condensed, so that there is NO NEED to add water. But my gut response is always, “I'll add as much fucking water as I want.” I happen to like soupy soup, and this organic soup is too thick for my taste. The tag should read, “no need to add water.” Then you don't feel like you are being ordered around by your soup can.

I also get a kick out of my coffee filters. They are unbleached filters, made by a company called “If You Care.” I always want to add, “as if.” “As If You Care!” The oceans are filled with piles of garbage the size of the Moon, and you think you are a compassionate hot-shot for buying brown coffee filters!

But the government “advice” is always even worse than the warnings. “Please drink responsibly” isn't a warning, it is friendly advice. It is the government talking like your Mom. Next we will see advice on our boxes of cookies: “Please do not eat in fits of depression.” Yes, “Mom,” but why else would I be eating them? If you don't want me to do things in fits of depression, try not depressing me every day! Foods like this are intended to be used as anti-depressants, which is why they are so expensive. Why else do you think Ben and Jerry can charge four dollars for a pint of ice cream? For anything more expensive than that, you need a prescription. I remember when ice cream was what, 50 cents for a pint? Then Haagen Dazs came out and everyone was shocked that it was so expensive, but we figured it was because they had to ship it in from Copenhagen or something on refrigerated mules. Now, Ben and Jerry's is even more expensive than Haagen Dazs, and they don't even justify this by being organic or vitamin enriched or laced with cocaine. They justify it by selling to rich people with too much money I guess, and they justify it by explicitly massaging those anti-depressant needs of their customers. They use psychology much better than Haagen Dazs ever dreamed of doing. Ben and Jerry must hire their advertisers right out of the Vienna Circle or something. I don't go to a shrink, but I imagine that psychologists must have forged some secret alliance with Ben and Jerry. Do they now have freezers at the doctors' offices? Your first pint free with a consultation. If not, it is just around the corner. Mark my words. Ben and Jerry will have tear-off coupons on the pints: one free visit to Psychology, Inc.

I have a message for Ben and Jerry. I don't give a flying fudge whether my ice cream tubber is for or against gay marriage or for or against abortion, anymore than I care whether the lady who starches my shirts is a lesbian or whether the guy who whirs my cappuccino is for or against the Lakers. I will pay a few percentage points more for organic milk or for eggs that are allowed to roam, but paying filet mignon prices for ground beef just because my butcher voted like me is silly. Ask yourself this, would you pay ten dollars a pound for ground beef just because you discovered your butcher was lobbying Congress to save the whales? I love whales, but I can lobby my own damn Congresspeople. Well, Ben and Jerry's is about ten bucks a pound, while good organic ice cream is less than half that. Besides, Ben and Jerry's is owned by Unilever, a conglomerate accused of deforestation, mercury dumping, union busting, child labor, animal testing, and so on. Maybe Ben and Jerry should consider coming out of superwealthy retirement to lobby Congress against themselves.

Speaking of pound-for-pound pricing, do you realize that bubble wrap is more expensive, pound for pound, than gold? Honestly, do the math.

Why is it when you ask a girl if she wants to go get a cup of coffee, she invariably says something like, “Oh, I don't drink coffee.” And she says this not because she dislikes you or wants to avoid getting to know you or wants to avoid waking up next to you in the morning. No, she says this with a superior glint in her eye, specifically to impress you. Yes, she wants you to know that she is too healthy to drink coffee, and that you should have recognized that. You should have realized immediately that no one could look as good as her by drinking coffee. But, fool that you are, you take this as an indication she does not want to go with you anywhere or drink anything in your lousy presence, so you slink off to look for sharp things to put in your coffee. While all the time she was waiting for you to ask her to go get a fruit smoothy, or to go get a pot of sleepytime tea or something. Yes, she is testing you. She is testing you by being flagrantly and extravagantly irrational.

She is not consciously testing you. She is not thinking, “Oh-ho, here is another stupid coffee-drinking male, let me test him.” No, she is just following her feminine subconscious, which is composed of layers and layers of irrational responses like, “I don't drink coffee.” The feminine subconscious has been perfected by eons of evolution, precisely to annoy any male who wanders by. Why should Nature wish to do this, you will ask? Shouldn't Nature be trying to bring males and females together? Ah, your naivete is showing. If Nature makes things too easy, mating-wise, any two people could hook-up, have a child, and live happily ever after. Nature wants no such thing. Just as Nature makes sure that only one lucky ram inseminates a whole flock of ewes, the rest of the rams flinging themselves from high cliffs or drinking themselves to death via strong espresso, Nature must also create irrational games for humans. Rather than grow antlers and rush at eachother on rocky ledges, stunning one another with a heart pounding collision, Nature has human men stunned by the females directly, via comments like “I don't drink coffee.”

Just to be clear, the logical response would be one of two. If the female dislikes the male, she could say “No,” plus any series of other words, such as “No, thanks,” “No, get lost,” or “No, and I have just quick-dialed the cops.” If the female likes the male, or is open to talking to him, to see if she likes him, she would say something like, “Yes.” Whether she likes coffee or not is immaterial. Once at the coffeeshop, she could have tea, soda, water, or bring her own flask. And if she really hates coffeeshops, all coffeeshops, and hates them much much more than she could ever like any human male, she could say “Yes,” plus a short series of other words, such as “Yes, but could we get a [soda, tea, hot chocolate, beer, bottle of Everclear] instead?”

She could, but you will almost never hear any of these replies from a human female. Nature will not allow these words to pass her lips. That would be like letting all the rams in the flock have a go. Sorting sperm is one of Nature's great tasks, one you would think she is quite adept at, and we must assume that “I don't drink coffee” does the job in our case, in some mysterious way we cannot comprehend.

Now, I know that many of my female readers will be going, “You loser, that girl really didn't want to go out with you, and that was her way of saying it.” But those female readers are dead wrong, and I know it. I know it because I did the follow up. I didn't actually slink off and look for sharp objects. I used the sharpest object at hand: my mind! I used Nature against herself. First, I ignored any possible meaning of any possible words. The girl could have been speaking Balinese or meowing like a cat for all I cared. Instead, I did two things: 1) I monitored the distance between us. If she moved even a hair toward me while making these animal sounds, I took that as a good sign; 2) I monitored the general levels of illogic contained in the words. The more illogical they are, the more she is testing me, and the more she is testing me, the more she finds me worthy of testing. Yes, instead of looking for meaning in the words, I look for LACK of meaning in the words. If the words make sense, she is clear-headed and therefore uninterested. She is probably saying something like “bugger off,” which is clear enough. But if she is saying “I don't drink coffee,” she is obviously speaking directly from deep within the reptilian brain, and is not responsible for her words. It is Nature talking, not her. And if she gets really illogical, even better: that means I have confused her. My masculine presence has short-circuited her last vestiges of reason, and even Nature can't put a sentence together. The conversation would then go like this: ME: “Would you care to go for a cup of coffee?” HER: “I think I left my panties in the dryer.”

As further proof I am not just making this up for fun, I will give you another true-life example. This is how I met a girl who I ended up dating for about six months. She was taking one of my art classes, and she seemed interested in me the first day of class. She was very cute and looked at me a lot. I was single and had no scruples about hitting on my students, so I thought I would ask her out. Problem was, the second day of class she put on her headphones as soon as I finished my opening lecture. I always lecture for a bit, to get everyone oiled up, and then let them draw. Being a fool, I thought this meant she didn't want to talk to me. A foolish, logical male will jump to such a conclusion, since it is hard to talk to someone who can't hear you. Fortunately, I jumped Nature's hurdles in the proper sequence this time: meaning, I was very lonely and therefore very persistent. Although she continued to wear the headphones and to ignore the hell out me, I promised myself I would ask her out or expire in the attempt. Eventually I manufactured the opportunity to do so, and the rest is history. Turns out she had the hots for me from the first day, just as I thought. So what was she thinking with the headphones? She wanted me to ask her what she was listening to. It was classical music and she was sure I would be very impressed. Aha, outlandishly illogical, which we can see after the fact as a good sign. The only way she could have shown a greater interest in me is by not coming to class at all, testing me to see if I would hunt down her address from the registrar and knock on her apartment door to see what was wrong.

Lest you think I am picking on women, men do the same thing. I don't date men, so I don't have any personal examples, but I do happen to have a rather impersonal sample picked up this very day, from yoga class. A guy showed up at class who I hadn't seen for about six months. It turned out he had been out with some sort of injury. He and the girls were chatting about the injury, since they all went way back, I take it (plus, yoga people like nothing better than chatting about injuries—I am always reminded of an old B. Kliban cartoon called “exhibit your symptom”). Anyway, trying to be friendly and enter the conversation, I said, “Well, at least you didn't gain any weight while you were away.” This seemed appropriate to me for several reasons: 1) most normal people would gain weight if they stopped exercising due to an injury—I know I would—and I would be concerned about it; 2) he was a “yogi” and most yogis like to be thin; 3) he is a guy and it is alright to mention the word “weight” to a guy (at least it was until recently); 4) he was quite ripped, despite the lack of exercise, and I figured he was proud of it. I intended to give him a boost in front of the girls. I wasn't interested in them, and he seemed to be, and I am always ready to lend a hand. Of course it backfired, like all things. He said, “yah, I never gain any weight. It's a curse.” Suddenly I felt like I had just pointed out the big ankles on a fat girl. Clearly he had just taken the last six months off to bulk up on creatine shakes and human growth hormone, and I had been boorish enough to point out his crashing failure.

I think he was actually taking a wild swing at humility, but even so, the problem was mine. As in my dealings with women, the problem was I expected a logical reply to a logical statement. Like Spock, I expected he would say something like, “Thanks, now if I can just get my balance back.” But people never say things like that, at least to me. They always say something that leaves me at a total loss for words. I guess I am just lucky he didn't say, “I think I left my panties in the dryer.”

And finally, I will decrescendo by offering for your notice the “Have you seen me?” of the day. In today's junk mail I noticed the “age progressed” photo of a 19 year old boy, missing since 1992. Always quick with math, I saw that this meant he went missing at age 1. How in hell do you age progress a photo of an infant 18 years? This must be just the wild guess of some computer artist. In which case, the “have you seen me” is meaningless. The ad is requesting identification based on seeing some stranger for a few seconds, and matching him to a photo generated by a computer from the photo of an infant. Your odds of making a match would be exactly the same if the computer age-progressed the photo of a teletubby, or the infant photo of a radish.

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