Life seems to be getting more and more complicated. You must’ve noticed that, because even I’ve noticed it, and believe me, a lot of things escape my attention. For example, I frequently walk around for the better part of a day with a dryer sheet hanging out from the bottom of my pants. Last week, I drove all over town with the trunk open. (I suppose I would’ve seen it sooner, but I was too distracted by people waving to me from the other cars.) The two things I say most frequently are: “When did that happen?” and “I have no idea why my head is bleeding.” So I’m as sure as I can be that you already know how complicated life is. And you’ve probably come up with ways to cope with the complexity.
I have, too.
Occasionally, big problems come along, and we have to be ready. We know what to do if there’s a tornado heading right for us. (Run!)
We know what to do when a marauding horde of barbarians charges down from the mountains, throwing thick slabs of wood at our heads. (Duck!)
And we certainly know what to do when some unimaginable catastrophe yanks the ground out from under our feet and causes us to question everything we’ve ever held to be true and important. (Eat candy!)
But what about the small things? Those tiny, maddening mysteries. Those quirks of nature that trip us up, often without our awareness. These, too, can be handled effectively. Of course, the first step is to recognize the problem. Knowledge is power! That’s my motto. Actually I have more than one motto, because “Knowledge is power” doesn’t exactly cover every possible circumstance. Another motto I have is “Hey, life is funny sometimes.” I once insisted on giving my daughter a haircut, and when I was finished she looked like an alpaca. As she stared into the mirror and her eyes welled with tears, I started to say “Knowledge is power,” but caught myself and quickly switched over to “Hey, life is funny sometimes.” It worked out beautifully, although I did have to buy her a hat.
Anyway, my point is that the world is changing, and it’s important that we keep learning and growing. Here are a few tips that I’ve found useful. I hope you do, too. For your convenience, I’ve divided the tips into categories. That’s another motto of mine: “When you have no idea what you’re talking about, divide everything up into categories.”
Everyone likes to say these days that it’s important to think outside the box. This is meaningless nonsense. Where is the box? Has anyone ever seen it? It stands to reason that if you don’t know where the box is, you can never be sure that you’re thinking outside of it. I’m pretty certain the box doesn’t exist.
The International Grading Scale for Olives includes thirteen different sizes. You might think that Large would be at the top of the scale, but you’d have to think again: there are eight sizes of olives above Large. Eight! Jumbo is bigger than Extra Large, while Giant is bigger than Jumbo. Colossal is bigger than Giant, but Super Mammoth, the largest specimen in the olive kingdom, is bigger than even Super Colossal. Eggs, on the other hand, come in just six different sizes: Pee Wee, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Jumbo. This is why it’s so very difficult to substitute olives for eggs in most cake recipes.
If your Internet connection is down, and you call technical support only to get a recording that advises you to visit their website for troubleshooting information, be careful. This kind of thing will cause your brain to become caught in a mental loop, and it could spin like that for weeks. It’s similar to fumbling around when the power suddenly goes off during a lightning storm — you know the candles are there somewhere, but you can’t find them because it’s dark, so you keep trying to turn the lights on. Forget the Internet and the candles, and go take a nap. By the way, this last bit of advice about taking a nap can easily be incorporated into a motto.
Never attempt to sleep in a Murphy Bed. In case you don’t know, this is an invention that’s designed to help you save space in your home. The frame is attached to hinges and instead of making the bed, you fold it up onto the wall, like a giant vertical mousetrap. It’s a little-known fact that the inventor of the Murphy Bed was the same guy who came up with Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Combine that little nugget of wisdom with a piece of furniture that catapults itself ninety degrees off the floor, and there isn’t much else that needs to be said.
Seeds don’t work. I don’t know how it started, but we’ve all grown up believing this myth that plants develop from seeds. I’ve planted thousands of seeds in my lifetime, and not one has ever grown. The tip-off to this hoax can be found in the directions on any seed packet: “Make holes one-eighth of an inch deep.” It’s physically impossible to dig a hole in dirt that’s only an eighth of an inch deep, and even if you could, you still have to cover the seeds. There is no soil on Earth that can be sprinkled so precisely. The truth is that all plants — whether flower, vegetable, fruit, or shrub — come from a nursery of some kind, and not from seeds. The veracity of this idea becomes obvious when you look at a seed and compare it to a tree. You’ll notice that the tree is very big and the seed is very small. Just ask yourself: Where did all of those leaves come from?
If you want to learn a foreign language, go to the country where they speak it. Don’t try to learn by listening to tapes or CDs, because you won’t know what you’re hearing. The words will all run together, and you’ll end up saying something stupid at a really bad time. Also, nobody who speaks the language ever says those things you hear in the lessons, and if you say them, everyone will laugh at you. The most important part of speaking like a native is the facial expressions and a lot of flailing arms. Think about English for a second: most people who speak English never actually say much of anything. I have to believe that the rest of the world is no different. There are more than six thousand languages, and I doubt anyone is communicating very far beyond waving their hands around and making weird faces.
There’s a graphics puzzle that appears in daily newspapers and kids’ magazines. The challenge involves trying to locate hidden objects in a drawing. I’ve never been able to find the hammer or the snake, but I’ll tell you right now and with complete confidence that the fish is always in the tree. Always. Remember this and you can amaze your friends with your visual acuity. Also, mention the word acuity in a way that sounds as though you know what it means, and they’ll be doubly amazed.
Everyone is driving themselves crazy attempting to eat healthier and keep up with the latest studies on cholesterol, sugar, salt, food additives, and pesticides. I’m telling you, there’s nothing to worry about. There are millions of men and women — living otherwise normal lives — who eat bizarre things, and have been doing so for years. These people secretly consume plastic, leather, cigarette ashes, pieces of broken pottery, telephone books, and even entire bicycles. If it’s possible to eat a flower pot and survive, I can’t see how a bag of Skittles is going to do you any harm.
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If any of this information helps eliminate some of your stress, I’m glad. It’s like I always say: Knowledge is power. And if none of this seems worthwhile, well, would you have preferred that I gave you a haircut? Besides, we can try again. I still have plenty of tips, many even more valuable than the ones listed here. I just have to divide them up into categories. But first I’m going to take a short nap.
Meanwhile, have fun tonight, and please be safe. I hope the coming twelve months are filled with happiness. In fact, I might even consider adopting that as my new motto: Happy New Year!