We all remember the adorable house finch that landed on Bernie Sanders’ podium during a 2016 Portland, Oregon, rally. Now we get to remember an adorable fly who became attached to Mike Pence’s head for two minutes during the debate.
I’m going to say that the most telling difference between the finch and fly incidents is Bernie noticed the finch, while Mike did not notice the fly.
It reminded me of the fun I used to have with overtalkers like Pence back in my college days.
Back then I spent way too much time in cafés and cafeterias and there’d be a half dozen people gathered around the table chatting away about math, physics, biochemistry, computers and politics. And invariably, someone would see the opportunity to dominate a discussion.
There are people in the world who live solely to be in control of something. Anything. It’s their entire focus in life. Their only focus.
One of them notices a table full of people having a friendly discussion about, say, some recent article in Scientific American and thinks, “I can control this.”
How do you control a conversation you didn’t start? Easy. Just get in there and start talking. It barely matters what you’re saying. Just be sure, if anyone else tries to say something, you talk right over them.
This was also around the exact same time I began to study stupidology, and one of my most striking findings was that stupidities had consistent patterns and often served the perpetrator’s interests. Even though their behavior seemed senseless, it was useful to them.
It was useful to talk over all the people at the table, because of the boost in self-esteem from becoming the table-master. But as they say in the theory of evolution, adaptations often come with a cost. The cost of being table-master and remaining table-master is the great focus required to keep the overtalking up.
I’d have fun with the overtalkers by demonstrating the fact that they tended to be oblivious to everything at the table except their uninterruptible monologue.
My favorite way to do this was to use up seven or eight matches failing to light one cigarette.
The trick was inspired by a bit in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. I would take out a cigarette, stick it in my mouth and light a match. Then I would stare at the talker as if enraptured by his presentation and let the match burn down to my fingers. In the movie, when asked how the trick was done, Lawrence says the trick is it hurts.
And then, I would light another match after the first one went out. It would burn down.
Then another match.
The overtalkers would never notice what I was doing.
As I said, stupidities tend to have payoffs. The overtalker got a sense of control.
For my stupidity I got laughs from the other people at the table, all of whom noticed and got the point.
Kamala Harris could have spent the whole debate time trying and failing to light one cigarette without Pence noticing, for all the energy he put into his focused, male-pattern overtalking.
Following the vice presidential debate and the fly on Pence’s head, I have naturally been thinking of Salvador Dali.
If only Salvador Dali were still with us and in his prime. I would love to see the painting that would have been inspired by that scene. Dali couldn’t resist painting flies of all kinds. He both loved and hated flies.
He said, “I adore flies. I am only happy in the sun, naked and covered with flies.” Perhaps Dali would have painted Pence in that jolly condition.
Dali loved his ability to disregard flies as they nibbled away at him while he painted. About which he said, “The day I find my thoughts are disturbed by the flies that cover me, I shall know this means that my ideas do not have the power of that paranoid stream which is the proof of my genius. On the other hand, if I do not notice the flies, it is the surest proof that I have the spiritual situation entirely under control.”
I’m sure Dali would have appreciated St. Mike Pence’s complete control of the spiritual situation during the debate and painted him in glory.
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. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more in the Oct. 14-20, 2020 issue.