Wise Old Sayings That Are Stupid
I am a misanthrope. I have a general distrust of humankind. At least right now, today, lately. I feel old, crotchety, irritable, bitter, and, well...misanthropic. This is not my normal state. People expect of me the happy guy, quick with a smile and a wink and a funny joke. But not today. Not yesterday. Not for a while. I can explain. I only have to tell you one thing and you will instantly understand. If you live in the developed world, you will nod your head sympathetically and commiserate with my misanthropic miserableness. It is, quite simply, this: I have been without hot water for 3 weeks.
Think about that. No hot showers. No convenient washing of dishes. This makes Chris angry. This makes Chris cynical. This makes Chris refer to himself in the 3rd person. The first repair company tried to charge me $3000.00. Not only am I without hot water, apparently I am perceived as a super-moronic rube that just fell off the turnip truck (albeit a rube with three grand in his pocket). So I got my regular repair company in. They need a part. A little elbow-pipe with a rubber thing on the end. It'll be fixed tomorrow. And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and here it is, three weeks going on four.
And so this is my therapy. There are no wise sayings for me right now. No proverbs packed with truth. No feel-good adages that make you want carpe the damn diem. In fact, if you really analyze them, they can be pretty stupid. Here are some of my half-baked, imbecilic, simpleminded favorites.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
I've always wondered about this wise saying. Does the early bird really catch the worm? What if the worm oversleeps? It's true that birds get up awfully early. I can hear them right outside my bedroom window, sometimes as early as 4:00AM, and one of these days they're gonna catch something else - like a beak full of buckshot. So I investigated the matter. Ok, some birds eat worms and some do not, but they eat lots of other stuff too. Who knows if they even like worms that much? Maybe eating worms make them want to puke their little birdy guts out. And what about Owls? They're hangin' out at clubs and partying all night, swooping down on rodents, and sleeping off a hangover the next morning. And Owls are WISE, right?
And here's the other thing: Early in the morning isn't even the best time to catch worms. 10:00 at night is about the best time, and the best way to get 'em is to pour a bucket of soapy water on the ground which causes the worms to come up to breathe. Or if you're really a hardcore worm catcher, you pound a couple of re-bars into the ground and hook them to your car battery. Rev your engine and then grab the little two-headed, hermaphroditic freaks and toss them into a bucket with some damp paper towels - or eat them. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen any birds hooking up jumper cables to my car lately (there was that one time, but that's a long story). Nope, this one's stupid. This one's better: The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
This is so idiotic that I hardly know where to begin the beguine. Firstly, what the hell's the point of having a cake if you can't eat it? Secondly, how can you eat a cake that you don't even have? You can pretend, but that's called pantomime, my friend, and you can only imagine it tastes sweet and delicious. What is this? Some kind of Confucius thing? Like What is the sound of one hand clapping or Man who go to sleep with itchy butt wake up with smelly finger?
Ok, ok, I get it. The dude is saying you want to keep the cake around to look at how pretty it is and you want to eat it, but you can't do both. I say eat the damn cake before it gets stale. Your little kid isn't going to appreciate having an imaginary birthday cake like in some opium-induced Alice in Wonderland scene. Naw. What they really meant was you need two cakes, one to look at and one to eat, so they should have said: Two cakes in the hand is worth one in the tush. Now that's killing two early birds with one stone.
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
Everyone thinks that Benjamin Franklin said this appalling apothegm, but it's actually an old Scottish saying. Maybe this is where the common misconception about Scots being cheap comes from. This is very unfair to Scots. Scots are nice people, unless you cross them, and some of the guys have the balls to wear kilts. No, what Ben Franklin said was, "Tis a well spent penny that saves a groat." Like anybody even knows what the hell a groat is anyway.
So you find a penny on the street. You pick it up. That doesn't mean you earned a penny. It means you're a cheap Scottish bastard. Let's say you do this for years and years, until you have this big thing filled with pennies totaling a whopping $37.62. Now, just try to cash them in. Banks won't even take them. Or you have to sit there at your kitchen table carefully stuffing them into little paper rolls and it only takes you 6 hours. You just hired yourself for $6.27 an hour. Congratulations T. Boone, you're a wealthy man. Nope. Afraid not. This one really gets my groat! The verdict? Stupid is as stupid does.
Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost Than Never to Have Loved At All
Awww. How sweet. How romantic. How friggin' STUPID! Might as well say, "Tis better to be dumped than never to have been dumped before," or "Tis better to be hit by a train blah, blah, blah." I know what Tennyson was up to when he came up with this one. He was trying to get laid, that's what. He'd be at a party sipping on a hot buttered cider punch and spout this tripe to the chicks. It was a pick-up line. And the chicks were all, "Oh, forsooth, Mr. Tennyson," and "Really, but you flatter, Mr. Tennyson," and "Kindly assist me to the fainting couch, Tenny."
The fact is, when you lose love it hurts like hell. You mope around. You feel sorry for yourself. You start drinking too much, then you start smoking crack, then meth, and you grind your teeth down to the nubs, and after a whole lot of misery, you're dead. Kaput. Finito. I, for one, would rather to have never loved at all than be six feet under feeding the worms that eventually feed the early birds. Go ahead. I'll visit your grave once a month, not to leave flowers, but to pour a bucket of soapy water on you and catch some bait.
Actually, it turns out it was Tennyson who said this. Well, well, well. Screw him too!
Better Three Hours Too Soon than a Minute Too Late
Old Bill Shakespeare penned this one. I guess he was a stickler for promptness. But there's an old Roman Proverb that goes, "Better Late Than Never." Ok. So which is it? Maybe Bill and some Romans should lock themselves in a room and not come out till they've reached a consensus, something like "Being One Minute Late Ain't Too Bad."
They had messengers back then. Why not send somebody ahead and tell the expectant party that you were held up in foot traffic, or there was a chariot wreck and the palanquins were backed up for miles? Better yet, postpone the meeting; claim their dog Barkus was sick and they had to go to the Sacrarium and offer a sacrifice to Goddess Diana - Mother of Creatures. Then blow the whole day off, go to the coliseum and watch them throw Christians to the lions. This old saw just doesn't hold water anymore. It should be changed: Never Do Today What Can Be Postponed Until Tomorrow.
The Cold Goes On
Ok. I feel better now. Soon, my hot water heater will be fixed and this will all seem like a bad dream, and hot water will once again pulse against my body, refreshing me, invigorating me, keeping me off the head-shrinker's couch and renewing my Irish wink in the bathroom mirror, a proverbial "top of the mornin'" to myself. Perhaps I'll feel the need to write another one of these some day, like in a month when it's really starting to get cold outside and my furnace explodes, but for now, I am calm. And so I leave you with one final proverb. One final idiom that eclipses all others, beautiful in its truth, simplicity, and its inarguable logic:
Live Everyday As Though It Were Your Last...And Someday You'll Be Right.