Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Human Pearl

Confession: I am a nose picker. I don’t think this is a revolutionary declaration and probably doesn’t even warrant the “Confession” beginning that I used because I think a high percentage of the population are nose pickers. In fact, I’m convinced that people who just plain refuse to stick their own fingers in their own noses make up a very small percentage of the population. (1.6% according to the latest U.S. census survey)

Despite the high level of picking that occurs there is still a negative stigma attached to this very natural process. And to me, this begs the question, when did picking ones nose become socially unacceptable? It is not my intention here to be gross or juvenile. And I’m definitely not striving for shock value since, despite the negative stigma attached to picking, the subject is too juvenile, while at the same time not gross enough to solicit any real shock. It’s just that I have been thinking a lot about social norms and cultural relativity, and this subject is one of many that address the greater issue. I guess I could have written about a number of things; shaking hands, bowing, chewing with mouths closed, burping, flatulence, shoe and shirt requirements, clapping, forms of chivalry, functionless clothing, and other seemingly innocuous acts of social propriety.

To me this subject lacks inappropriate connotation because of my personal feelings about the item being picked. When analyzed scientifically, the booger is not as unpleasant as pop culture would have you believe. I have reasoned that the booger is not unlike the pearl. My comparison is not in the realm of aesthetic beauty or monetary value, but in origin. Though I am not a marine biologist, it is my understanding that a pearl is made when an oyster gets an unwelcome grain of sand inside its shell. The grain causes discomfort and to cope with said discomfort the oyster spins mucus around the grain. Once hardened, the final product is a pearl. In like manner, the human will get a foreign object in its nose (i.e. sand, dust, saw-dust, etc.) and to cope with the discomfort the human nose will coat the object with mucus. This conclusion has helped me look at my boogers in a whole new light. I don’t think I’ll soon be making a necklace of them. But still, it’s not impossible that my family will someday fall on hard times and I’ll need an anniversary gift.

Aside from the social implications, there is still some danger in picking ones nose. And it is this danger that has occupied an inordinate amount of my thoughts. The other night, while driving home, I started to wonder to myself about the possibility of picking a vein large enough to cause massive hemorrhaging from the nose. And if I struck the large vein, would I have the wherewithal, amidst all the bleeding, to get myself to a hospital?
This led me to think about what would happen if I died at the hospital. So I started making mental plans about what to do in such an event. Get my wallet so I have Id. But the address on my license is incorrect. This could lead to an unpleasant exchange.
“Miss, I regret to inform you that your husband has died.”
“Died?! How? What happened?!!”
“He bled to death due to a nose picking accident.”
“I’m sorry Mrs. Quinn.”
“Is your husband not Ben Quinn?”
“Sorry to alarm you.”

It could take days before my family was finally tracked down and told of my untimely demise.

I rethink my mental plans. Grab my cell phone. Once I die they’ll go through my pockets, find my wallet, learn my identity, send a cop to the wrong house, find my phone, start calling everybody in my contact list alphabetically. Hopefully Adam will tell them who my wife is so they don’t bother calling all the people I don’t care about between A and K. Good. Don’t forget the phone.

My wife has little patience for the deeper questions in life. If I asked her if she thought death by nose pick was possible, she’d roll her eyes far enough to see her own brain. I know this because every once in a while, while driving along in silence, I make the mistake of vocalizing some of my deeper questions.
“If you were paid 100 dollars an hour to work out, would you limit yourself to working out one or two hours a day, or would you work out to the point of becoming freakishly ripped with all your veins popping out all over and your breasts turning to man pecks, just so you could be rich?”
“Who’s going to pay me 100 dollars an hour to work out?”
“No one, I know. But for arguments sake, what would you do?”
“Where are they getting the money, and how does my working out benefit them?”
“Forget who or where the money is coming from! Just answer the question!”
“No. It’s stupid. It would never happen.”
At this point my daughter would chime in and remind my wife that we do not say, “stupid”, and the conversation would be over. I would then recede back into my own mind where there is greater opportunity for profound and meaningful conversation between the hemispheres of my brain.

Deep into this conversation I feel an itch and have to pick. “Wait a minute,” I tell myself. “Grab your wallet. Check. Get your phone. Check. Think of the nearest hospital. Check. Now dig away. But use caution, because

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Death Of A Friend

I never was one of those guys who enjoyed attaching an undue amount of personification to his car. It never got a nickname like Gertrude, or The Beast, and I never referred to it like someone I was intimately or physically involved with. Nevertheless, I did have a certain fondness for my ’95 Geo Prizm. Partly because it was a gift from my father and partly because it was the means by which I saw so much of this beautiful world. So allow me, for a moment, to suspend my unwillingness to see machines as our equals, because, to be perfectly honest, my car was a truer friend than… well… all my other friends. Shame on them for being outdone by a car.

Gertrude the Beast was born June 27th 1995. I was not her original companion but became so in September 1998 after her original companion ran out on her like a coward. She was maroon, had four wheels, four doors, a great rack, which I liked to attach stuff too, and a trunk big enough for one medium sized body or two small bodies. We seemed to hit it off immediately and were surprised at how closely our interests aligned. We both liked music, air-conditioning, and driving places. We were like peas and carrots.

Within her lifetime she drove exactly 1,605, 250 miles, which is equivalent to driving to the sun and back. She visited every state in the nation, every country in North and South America, drove to Europe twice, Asia once, and is the only four wheeled vehicle to drive on the Great Wall of China.

She was also born with a surprisingly competitive spirit. Before she passed, Gertrude the Beast won three Formula One titles, two NASCAR titles, a motor-cross championship, and an aerial freestyle competition. Other notable accomplishments include the trafficking of displaced African refugees, assisting in the initial invasion of Iraq, personally capturing Sadam Hussein, and hosting Saturday Night Live. Sadly, her competing came to an abrupt end when she was convicted of vehicular dogslaughter in 2002. She pled guilty, paid a heavy fine, but was relieved the court never learned of the vehicular catslaughter, deerslaughter, and minorityslaughter she had also participated in.

Gertrude the Beast was there to see me through college, marriage, the election, the surgery, and the birth of my first two children. I had hoped she would be there for many more years but on the morning of April 14th, 2008, while driving to work she suffered major internal damage due to old age. After I cursed her and kicked her in the side I was immediately filled with regret because a man could not have asked for a better companion or truer friend. She was loved in life and will be missed in death.

Tomorrow she will be taken to the scrap yard, sold for the handsome sum of $100, and crushed. Goodbye old girl.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

You've Been Lip Serviced

Most people don’t know this, but my wife is a master of persuasion and champion debater. And being a graduate of a state college public speaking class, I am well aware of the tools used against me when we are forced to go toe-to-toe in a verbal sparing match. They are the 3 Greek elements of persuasion, as set forth by Aristotle himself, and I’m sure you will all agree that he was one deep thinking SOB.

The three elements are as follows:
Ethos (Credibility or Ethics) means convincing by the character of the speaker, or persuading by appealing to one’s ethics.
Pathos (Emotional) means persuading by appealing to one’s emotions.
Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning.

My wife, like all females, has never tried to use Logos. Before you ladies freak out and blow an ovary, let me say it is not my intention to offend. Females cannot be faulted for this. It’s just that they are born without the part of the brain that produces the logic hormone. We can no more expect them to use logic as we can expect them to pee accurately standing up. They’re just not built that way.

She is also unable to use the element of Pathos. This time however it is not due to a lack, but rather an over production of the element. When she attempts its use, words and noises fly out of her mouth in an uncontrolled barrage of inflammatory nonsense, which undulate in pitch, volume, and intensity. It's like watching one of the mutants, from the X-Men movies, as they first discover their powers and unwittingly cause large amounts of destruction.

As for Ethos, well, she uses it on a very limited basis.

So how can she possibly be a persuasive speaker, you are probably wondering. It is because she has discovered and capitalized on the forth Greek element;
Hyperbolos: persuading by the use of ridiculous exaggeration.

Allow me to illustrate with an excerpt from our most recent debate.

Situation: We are at the local Dell Taco to appease my wife’s “cravings.” This locale is equipped with a play area for kids, which my daughter disappears into the moment we arrive. Halfway through our meal…

Wife: Where’s Maggie?
Me: She’s playing.
Wife: Where? I can’t see her. Can you see her?
Me: She in one of those tubes. She’s fine.
Wife: Go find her.
Me: Go find her? Honey, there’s like 50 miles of tubing in there. It could take days. She’ll come out when she gets hungry.
Wife: There’s an outside exit in the play area. How can you be sure she didn’t open the door and run out into the street and is about to get splattered by a giant semi from Hell?
Me: What?
Wife: She’s probably in the back of a windowless van, gagged, bound, drugged, and helpless, with you sitting here stuffing your face, while her captors are forcing her to shoot up heroin and smoke crack and do acid.
Me: That’s a lot of drugs.
Wife: She could be getting high and watching pornography right now.
Me: Huh?
Wife: Maybe she’s in a shipping crate, on her way to war-torn Africa where she’ll be given a gun and forced to participate in the latest ethnic cleansing campaign and kill mindlessly while, simultaneously being forced into a life of child prostitution as the tribe passes her around like some kind of soulless plaything, and pushed to the brink of existence till she is nothing more than an empty shell, a vague memory of the cute, rosy-cheeked girl we once knew and one day, as she teeters on the edge of a monstrous African cliff, before she leaps to her own demise upon the jagged rocks below, she will utter one… last… word.
Me: *gulp*
Wife: You’d never be able to forgive yourself. You’ll sit around in a constant state of morbid depression, getting old, fat, ugly, bald, stupid, and retarded. Unmovable. You’ll burst into uncontrollable, seizure-like, fits of weeping every time you think about the day you chose a burrito over your own daughter. Hmmph.

And with that last “hmmph,” I was defeated; once again bested by the Queen of Rhetoric. I promptly ran to the play place certain I was too late.

As it turns out, she was only playing on the slide. Not a windowless van in sight.