Friday, March 18, 2005

In Search of Mr. Busboy

When I was growing up with the elk we had no family name. We were simply known as "That Group of Elk Over There" or "Those Elk Up Yonder." But here in society everyone has a family name. Some examples I've noticed are Smith, Johnson and Wiggins.

I understand that hundreds of years ago these names came about due to a person’s occupation, such as a blacksmith for Smith, or as a descriptor, such as the son of John for Johnson. I don't know what a Wiggins is.

I wonder when people decided to start using these kind of names. And once they did, at what point did they simply stick? In other words, at what point did Johnson stay Johnson, instead of changing with John's son's son? If John's son was Mike (Mike Johnson), shouldn't his son's last name be Mikeson? The same question applies to occupational names. Where's Mr. Livery and Mr. Busboy?

Back home we didn't need names. After all, we didn't get paychecks or monograms or jury duty. But now that I'm here I wish to adopt a family name. Maybe a first name, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hygiene and the Surprising Survival of the Human Race

One thing that’s nice about people is that they smell good. I didn’t realize how wonderful a thing this was until I came across someone who didn’t smell good. He was a disheveled creature who smelled worse than fresh droppings.

Modern innovations in soap and deodorant are largely responsible for people’s pleasant aromas. Without them, places like armpits begin to stink within hours. Particularly on men. But any person who doesn’t bathe for an extended period of time smells worse than leftovers from a carcass after a cougar makes a kill.

This got me thinking, before luxuries like the aforementioned deodorant, how dreadful did people smell? I drew a timeline of humankind’s existence and noticed that these good-smelling things are fairly new to civilization. So for the majority of time, people stunk.

Today, when bad odor surrounds a male or female, it’s hard to attract the opposite sex. Men prefer women who smell good, and vice versa. Was this true a few hundred years ago? If a wretched stench were emanating from a man’s armpits and groin, what women would go near him? And if this were the case for the majority of people, how did they overcome the stink’s force to get close enough for mating?

Perhaps this is a testament to the power of human libido. For if the libido were unable to overcome the stink, I very much doubt the human race would’ve survived more than a generation or two.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Fork’s Mighty Rule in the Kingdom of Etiquette

While eating lunch the other day I marveled at how civilized civilization is. Until leaving the woods, I had never seen the metal thing called a “fork.” I always used my fingers to grasp food and put it in my mouth. Among the elk, who ate directly with their mouths, I was the most “civilized.”

This fork is quite curious. For some reason the use of one became an etiquette standard. The absence of a fork can immediately alter one’s opinion of another. For instance, if a brilliant scientist were caught eating a steak with his fingers, his status as “brilliant” would immediately plummet to “heathen.” The fork truly has power beyond its tines.

However, I’ve also noted that there are exceptions to the fork’s rule. Such immunity is given to designated “finger food” like fries and pizza. Both foods could be eaten with a fork, but seldom are. Isn’t this hypocritical? A teenager at the mall mocked me as I ate my fries with a fork. I returned the mocking by pointing out his acne and insulting his mother.

I called the fork company and inquired about its domination over the eating industry, but was told to talk to the spoon people. So I did some investigating of my own and uncovered some historical facts on the fork. For instance, until the 1700s, the fork was looked down upon. Rather, proper etiquette demanded food be eaten using only three fingers (this kept two clean!). Only savages ate with all five. Religion was also a force behind the damnation of forks. Clergymen believed that God had provided men with natural forks—fingers—and to use metal instruments and substitutes was an insult to the Almighty. One such Italian clergyman backed up his argument after a woman in his presence refused to eat with her fingers and died shortly after.

These religious concerns soon faded. Had they been true, we’d all surely be dead by now (except us elk and our four-legged brethren). Or, maybe they were right and we forkers are all on a silver platter to hell.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Appreciation and Puzzlement at the Urinal

I’ve been temping at a turtle breeding company for the past few weeks and have had the opportunity to enjoy the men’s room urinal. It’s a lovely contraption that whisks my urine away from me, to some place I can only imagine is a like a giant yellowish sea plagued with a foul stench. I wonder what sort of creatures could thrive there.

When I was with my elk family, we would pee and then leave the area immediately. With the urinal, I can stay put.

But what I’ve found most interesting is the little puddle that accumulates beneath the receptacle. How does this tiny pond get there? Last Tuesday I sat there for 15 minutes watching the urinal to see if it leaked. It did not. I had to leave when a co-worker entered the bathroom and informed me that he was uncomfortable with my watching him urinate. I believe his words were, “What the hell are you looking at Twig Head?”

After a few minutes, I felt it was safe to enter the bathroom once again. The puddle had grown! The leaking came not from the urinal, but from my co-worker. I was sure of it and felt no need to confirm with a sniff. How could this be? The urinal is designed so that your thingy can be very close to it and is wide enough to catch urine even if you shake around a bit. How could anyone miss? Clearly he wasn’t the only one contributing to the puddle. Is it laziness? A complete lack of penis-eye coordination? Puzzling.

But perhaps the puddle needs to be there. It serves as a constant reminder of the urinal’s value, a microcosm of what might be if our urine wasn’t flushed far away. And it keeps the janitor busy.

The Unnecessary Confusion from Simple Questions

To wear my prosthetic antlers, I glue two pen caps to the side of my hat, then I place a twig in each one. Today the caps broke off my hat, so I went to a drugstore and asked an employee where the super glue was. The dull-witted girl responded, “What happened?” I explained to her that I had just asked her a question regarding the store’s placement of super glue. She smacked her gum and pointed to the back of aisle 3.

This was not the first time someone had asked me what happened after an inquiry. Had I startled them? Were they simply inexperienced in answering questions? I grew up speaking Elk (which is fairly easy if your lungs allow for loud shrieking) yet I understand when I’m being asked a question and do not need the situation explained to me. It seems that these people say, “What happened?” when they mean to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you just said.”

During a recent junket down south (I was temping at a turtle breeding company) I noticed a similar communication complication. When asking a slack-jawed youth which way the boiled peanut stand was, he replied, “Do wha-?” Puzzled, I said, “No my friend, I didn’t ask you to do anything, except tell me a direction.” He pointed up yonder.

English appears to have regional difficulties with simple clarification responses. Yet, if I’ve mastered the art of talking after being raised by elk, it makes me wonder what excuse these poor, confused people have. What happened, indeed.