mommy, some silly guy threw his shoes on that telephone wire

Our dog thinks she’s a person, we sometimes say. But who are we kidding? Our dog is about as sharp as an orange, but even she has probably noticed that she’s the only one who doesn’t use silverware, or that she makes different mouth noises that our home’s two-legged denizens do, and that nobody but her seems to take the Squirrel Threat seriously (mother fucker is always running around like nicolas cage trying to warn us about the squirrels’ secret plot, but dammit, we just won’t listen. it’s lonely being the only one who knows). Point is, she knows she’s a dog, but having only one species for comparison, it was probably pretty easy for her to arrive at that conclusion. Think of the poor wild animals who are surrounded by tremendous biological diversity. For them it must be at least a little confusing. When does a deer become aware he’s a deer? Does a golden eagle ever stop and say, “oh, I’ve been an eagle this whole time. Lucky me!” as he’s dropping a goat off a cliff?

The reason I ask is because my dad worked in at the plant that was the third-largest employer in our town. And the two main spheres that my parents drew their social contacts from were his co-workers and our church, greatly preferring those young families who fell into the overlap between these two spheres. And it just so happened that most of these families’ patriarchs were not in facilities maintenance like my dad, but engineers. Which meant that during my formative years, my impressionable young mind was molded in large part by guys who carried pocket calculators at all times, even while they were barbecuing hamburgers in the backyard. While my parents weren’t nerds themselves, my mom knew where to send me when, inevitably, I approached her with nerd-related questions (“honey, you  know you you should ask about that? Ken Dwyer. Mrs. Dwyer tells me he’s recorded nearly every star trek episode from the reruns on channel 27; maybe he could loan you one of his tapes”) I never asked my dad about stuff like that. Maybe on some subconscious level I knew he wasn’t all that excited that I was developing those kinds of interests.

Years later I was trying to figure out why I was a 24 year-old virgin, and ultimately I traced it to two defining personality characteristics. One, the ability to develop unbridled, unironic enthusiasm for weird shit, I consider a real gift. Any free western society needs to have a guy who has well thought-out opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of Danish metal producer Flemming Rasmussen, and while it is my honor to provide this frequently overlooked civic service, it’s not a great way to meet people. The second is a tendency to misread obvious social signals and a basic unawareness of a lot of generally agreed-upon conventions. Whew- well, that about covers it. I feel so much better getting that out into the open, you know? Thanks for listening. Oh, and for answering my question a couple hours back about the copy machine; your prompt, cheerful service will earn you high marks on the customer satisfaction survey that I assume will follow our conversation. Oh, don’t be so humble- I’m serious, you’re one of the best. The Konica company should take the recording of this call that was made for quality assurance and play it at their new employee orientation.


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October 2011
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