Monday, December 03, 2007

Like all reporters, I am professionally ignorant.

Every day I'm confronted by mysteries, conundrums and puzzling evidence of things I barely understand. It's my job to comprehend something of which I have no experience in order to write a story that will be understood by my readers.

There are many times I am stymied, though, by events and pronouncements I see or read.

For instance, I make no claim to superior intelligence, but I like to think that, as the late Redd Foxx would say, "I ain't no dummy." Why is it then when I stand at the counter of a Starbucks to get one of the frozen coffee drinks that I like so much I never know what to ask for? I have to launch into a description and an either bemused or bored looking barista then translates what I want to Starbuck-ese. Why is it I fail to understand the language of coffee drinks when obviously so many speak it?

I don't have trouble ordering food in Chinese restaurants where the cuisine and how it is described reflects a foreign culture.

On television I seem to watch all the channels on which some firm advertises for my "old gold." Apparently, there are quite a few Americans with gold items cluttering up their houses and this firm will buy them from you. All you have to do is call a telephone number and request your "old gold kit." You toss the stuff into a "security envelope" and wait for your check. What fascinates me is that among the "old gold" inventory the happy announcer lists is dental gold. Where does one get used dental gold? Is this from an inheritance or a quiet moment with a pair of pliers? That's a little grim, isn't it? Or do you trade in gold fillings and bridgework for newer substances?

We have toilets and urinals that flush themselves because we apparently are incapable of doing such an easy task and now we have paper towel and hand soap dispensers that are automatic as well. My problem is that if I'm in a restroom for the first time I have to stand there and try to figure out what I have to do or not do in order to complete the mundane chore of washing one's hands. Do I wave my hands before a sensor or crank something? When nothing happens have I waved too much or is it not working?

A seventh grade class recently visited me on a career day field trip to our offices. Now a newspaper office is a fairly passive place, but I expected some questions, some expressions of interest stupid, stupid me.

Instead almost every question I asked in order to get to know them a bit better What kind of music do you listen to? What movies do you like? What do you do in your spare time? Have you thought about a career? were met, for the most part, with blank stares or a genial "I don't know."

So how do these kids who profess to know so little manage to understand the intricacies of half a dozen video games that can take months to learn? How come they are capable of having a half-dozen conversations going on through instant messaging, but are ignorant of what is happening in their world? What the hell are they talking about?

I'm concerned my lack of understanding might be the tip of the on-coming old age iceberg. I've often wondered why men who were snappy dressers up until retirement suddenly accept clothing combinations of checks and stripes that are usually reserved for rodeo clowns. Why do these guys wear their pants up around their nipples? And why do some wear both a belt and suspenders?

Does an old- age chromosome kick in that negates any sense of good taste?

That leads into another question: Why do we Americans prefer quantity of food to quality? How many times have you heard people say, "Well it's not the best place, but you get a lot for the money."

Take it from a fat man, life is too short for bad buffets.

If anyone has any answers, drop me a line at

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Mark Martin said...

You're channeling Benchley tonight! Great post, Mikey! That's the kinda dang post I wanta write!

Kip W said...

I wish I had some old gold, so I could thank Good Old Tom! I just know he's a swell guy.