Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beats Me

Did you ever wish you could make that perfect comment? More precisely, did you get into a situation where later on you thought of something you should have said that would have been killer if you could have said it when it mattered? This is why people on sitcoms sound so smart. Their writers can take a little time and think about it. The rest of us can't do that.


I remember one good comment I did have in time.

When I was a supervisor in the library, they had a speaker come in to give an all-day thing to a group of us middle manager types, so we could learn about our strengths and weaknesses and do some team building and become better people. One thing I'll tell you: stay with the plane. If you don't know what that means, just wait till you go to one of these things.

Among other activities we took a written test called the Multiphasic Personality Inventory. I love the name. Right? I want to find something I'm working on that I can call multiphasic. People will respect that. "Joe? He's busy developing the multiphasic email spam blocker." "Wow."

It was that test that told me I should never ever take a job where I have to talk to human beings.

Anyway, we were looking at our results, and my friend Seth said, "It says here I'm predictable."

And immediately I told him, "I knew you'd say that."

That was a hell of a long time ago.


Another time I couldn't think of a joke. A bunch of us were sitting around in a backyard having a couple of beers, and anyone who could think of a joke told it. A few of us came up empty. Well, I thought of the one about the diving tramp, but it's really long and maybe some of them had heard it. I like that one, but I wanted to think of something more obscure that fitted my sense of humor. I have standards.

On my way home, I invented an original joke.

There were these two sheep farmers walking through a field. It was a farmer and his neighbor farmer.

Now this area had been in sheep farming for a long time, and the farms were separated by ancient stone walls and old wooden fences. If they fell into disrepair, the sheep could wander off their own farm and into neighboring properties.

The custom had developed that if you found a neighbor's sheep, you would bring it back where it belonged. The sheep were all marked on the ear, so you would know who they belonged to.

The farmer complained to his neighbor. "These farmers just don't take care like I do. They don't do repairs and they do careless things. The other day I found a place where a fool had piled up hay bales next to a stone wall, and of course a few of his sheep had walked up the bales and over the wall into my land. And I had to go bring them back. I spend too much time bringing sheep back where they belong."

"I've had enough. From now on, I'm going to just keep the sheep. If they want their sheep back, they can come get them, and I'll charge them for the feed."

"Now I know you take care. If one of your sheep manages to get out, I'll bring it back. I hardly ever see one of yours. That's how it should be. But the rest of these farmers, forget it."

As they walked along they came over a rise, and there they found a sheep nibbling grass.

"Now look at that," the farmer said. "I know I just put all my sheep in the barn. This one's not mine. This is it. I am taking this sheep."

"But wait," he said. "I guess there's a chance it's yours. I don't have my glasses with me. Would you take a look at its ear and..."

Oh no. Look away. Look away, before it's too late.

"...stop me if you herd this one."

I warned you. Maybe it's a good thing that I couldn't think of this while I was there.


This next one's a really lame comment, but I had a second chance with it, and you don't get that too often. And I want to demonstrate what can happen.

About a month ago, I was on my way to work, walking to the railway station. As you know I expect Runner Girl to pass me along the way, going the same direction as me.

On that day, unexpectedly, I saw her running toward me. That meant she was doing her run about a half hour later than normal. And this woman is like clockwork. She's the only runner I see at the same time every day. I nodded at her, and she said "hi" and kept going. Then I thought I should have had a comment on this unusual meeting.

Actually I thought of saying, "You're running late", but that pun is too bad even for me, so I decided I should just say "You're late". That would be enough. She was at least a block away by this time, so, so much for that thought.

But wait. Just this past Monday it happened again! I will write the next paragraphs day by day.

Monday: Runner Girl was running toward me, and I got myself ready, and after she smiled and waved, she passed me, and I turned and said, "You're late". No reaction. All I could see was her back as she moved away.

Tuesday: Day off. When I have a weekday off I do my usual walk and run, but I do it about an hour later. This overlaps into the time Runner Girl is out, so occasionally I see her. If she realizes that I usually go out earlier, and she saw me today, then she could say to me, "You're late". The very next day. How perfect is that? Would she think of it? Probably she would. However, I didn't see her.

Wednesday: I didn't see her today either. I was walking to the station at the normal time. Strange. Oh no. Maybe I have ruined it with that careless remark. Has she changed her route?

Thursday: Nothing, again.
A moment of sadness. Has she moved away?

Friday: And... nothing. The new normal? Damn cold this morning though. I didn't run myself. I don't know whether she runs in the winter at all. I wasn't paying attention before I wrote Runner Girl. But I have a bad feeling. "You're late"... why did I need to say that?

See, kids? Be careful with those comments.


One more.

This one's about one of those computer programs that can play chess. There's a programmer who has a friend who's a chess grand master, so they're working on one of these programs together. The programmer has put in all the rules, and hundreds of gambits or whatever they call them, and even the course of a thousand championship games with the good moves noted.

The chess grand master keeps playing against the computer. He wins sometimes, and says that it shows how the human brain is more adaptable. But it makes the programmer add more data. As time goes on, the grand master loses more and more, and eventually he gets discouraged.

"I don't want to work on the project any more", says the grand master.

"But why?", says the programmer.

"It beats me", says the grand master.

Yeah. Sorry, that's about it.

Next time: Outdoor Art in South Orange.

1 comment:

  1. Monday Nov 9: I walked to the station, Runner Girl ran by, and no waving or saying hi from either of us. The world is back to normal. What a relief.