Readers often think writing these columns is my job at Real Change.
I’ve been asking for going on 24 years to be paid one baking potato per column. I’ve been told no, because as soon as I was paid potatoes they’d have to pay every other volunteer writer a potato, which would break the budget.
I’m instead paid to help staff the vendor program.
I work in an office with (currently) two coworkers (a third one escaped). They’ve been asking for some sort of compensation from me.
I agreed to mention them here, that the world might know their pain. They are Katie “I-do-not-consent-to-be-recorded” Comboy, AKA “The Law Doctor,” and Ainsley “Don’t-either-of-you-use-baby-talk-around-me-or-I’ll-beat-you-up” Meyer.
These columns often feature long, digressive stories from my life. My real life conversation does also.
After finishing one rather typical long-winded yarn, Ainsley said, “You know what? You should get paid to talk.” Which I treated as an opening to talk about 23 years and 10 months of not being paid potatoes, even though I knew she was really saying, “I’m not paying you, so why don’t you shut up?”
My desk looks toward the sales desk, where various volunteers sell papers to the vendors.
Part of my job is to leap out of my chair and stride to the sales desk to take care of urgent sales desk problems.
Perhaps the paper in the receipt machine needs refilling. Or, I’m needed to find a “Robert” in our database by entering “Bob.” Most of the time, though, when sales desk volunteers are working, I just carry on with them by shouting inanities across the room.
One particular such volunteer was there when the others were negotiating being quoted, but I forgot to get his explicit permission to use his quote, so I shouldn’t use his name. I’ll just refer to him as [First Name] “F%#! you, Wes” [Last Name]. He’s our Mr. Volunteer of the Year, so I truly value his input.
Speaking of quotes, I found a great one from a fellow named David Krakauer, president of the Santa Fe Institute, a respected research institute devoted to the study of complex adaptive systems, which sounds really important. He said:
“Stupidity is a very interesting class of phenomena in human history … It’s an interesting fact that, whilst there are numerous individuals who study intelligence — there are whole departments that are interested in it — if you were to ask yourself what’s the greatest problem facing the world today, I would say it would be stupidity. So we should have professors of stupidity — it would just be embarrassing to be called the stupid professor.”
But I am not embarrassed to call myself a stupidologist.
That reminds me of a story. Unfortunately, I don’t have room enough left on the page to tell it, so I’ll tell this one instead:
The stupidest teacher I ever had in school was my 7th grade English, math, science and homeroom teacher. He was not qualified to teach any of the four, including homeroom.
The only way he could teach science at all was that he possessed the teacher’s version of the textbook, the one with all the answers and the extra tips, highlighted.
Even with those he couldn’t figure out how to set up the experiments properly, and when they didn’t “work” he would leap on that and say, “I knew it all along! Science is wrong! The only truth is in the Good Book!”
Stupidology tells us that it is a common human error to believe that if science is ever proved wrong, then that fact means whatever else you thought was in line for being held true is proved right.
Had he thought the next alternative was “It’s all turtles, all the way down,” well, then, if the experiment failed, he would think, “Infinite turtles it is.”
I believe in finitely many turtles, and endless stories.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Read the full June 12 - 18 issue.
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