Friday, July 14, 2006

The Stupid Things We Do

Ask Mr. Long Island BY MICHAEL WATT

I was chewing bubblegum while watching my 11 year-old son Max’s baseball team participate in a game last Sunday. There was a close play and a bad outcome for my son’s team and in the ensuing excitement my teeth missed the gum and instead chomped down on my tongue. A “not-so-bad-but-still-something-I-wouldn’t-say-in-front-of-my-mother” word came out of my mouth. This was not good, as I am the manager of my son’s team and everybody thought I was mad at the kid who made the error that caused the bad outcome. Unfortunately, I did not have the time nor the wherewithal to explain to the dozens of parents in attendance that the not-so-bad word out of my mouth was just an expression of the frustration one feels when one inflicts pain on oneself, especially when done in a particularly embarrassing manner.

As you might expect this was not the first time I had bitten my tongue. Back in the day a bunch of us were celebrating something with free flowing beer and adult beverages dispensed by a lit fountain in a backyard soiree and I did a headfirst dive into one of those plastic kiddie pools. Somewhere along the line, however, my teeth came down on my tongue like a room full of Rush Limbaugh fans on a card-carrying member of the ACLU. I did not feel much pain that night but the next day it was excruciating. To complete the picture, when I spoke I sounded like the Hangman in the movie “Blazing Saddles.”

It seems silly to get embarrassed when we do stupid things like biting our tongues, especially when we know everybody else at one point in their lives has done it the same thing. Still, that is little consolation when walking down the hall at work and your shoe gets caught in the carpet, or walking on the sidewalk and you trip over nothing in particular. The latter is all the more jarring because your body lunges forward and it’s all you can do to keep from falling down. The cool people, of course, just keep walking. I am more curious than cool so I am more likely to look back to see if some kind of evil hand rising up from the ground was responsible for my stumbling.

One time I was walking through Greenwich Village in broad daylight. I don’t know how it happened or why, but I was minding my own business when I walked right into a parking meter. I was mortified and in pain but had the presence of mind to say, “Excuse me” to the meter. I then got the heck out of there and never walked down that street again, just in case somebody was watching.

Speaking of stupid things people do I hope that someday somebody with a scientific bent for such things studies what it is about alcohol that compels people who drink too much to call on the phone people they have not spoken to in some time. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I pulled this stunt more than once -- again back in the day. However, after paying for one too many midnight ramblings I decided to take things one step further. Not only would I call, but I would call collect. From what I remember, though, the calls almost always entertained the recipient, which may or may not explain why those who received them are still friends with me.

How about when you are driving along, seemingly paying attention, and you switch lanes. Once you do, however, you realize you just cut off the guy behind you. Now you might be inclined to wave an apology to the driver behind you, but in doing so you run the risk of that apologetic wave being mis-interpreted as an offensive gesture. Then you’d be in big trouble. So, if you are like me you just kind of cringe and make a point of avoiding eye contact with that driver for the rest of your trip – even if the both of you are driving across country.

I always imagine the guy behind me being a distant relative of the truck driver in the made for TV movie “Dual,” starring Dennis Weaver (and featuring a novice Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair.)

Ever call somebody on the phone (drunk or otherwise) and then between the time you dial and the time somebody picks up you have forgotten who you called? This happens to me anytime I am going down a list to make a bunch of phone calls – like when I have to tell my Little League parents that a game has been cancelled. What makes the situation really challenging is when I forget and a person with a high voice answers. I can never tell if I have one of my pre-pubescent players or his mother on the horn.

Let’s see, what else? Have you ever:

-- Rented a movie you have never heard of at Blockbuster because you liked what you read about it on the cover, only to discover the movie is about as entertaining as a tax audit?

-- Stuck your finger in a cup of water to see if it was hot enough for tea?

-- Lit a match to see if the propane tank was turned off?

-- Spent 20 minutes looking for your keys when they are in your pocket the whole time?

-- Spoken loudly to someone so you can be heard over the music, only to have the music stop about mid-sentence but you keep talking loudly?

-- Grabbed the wrong luggage off the luggage carousel at an airport?

-- Said hello to someone thinking they were somebody else?

-- Dated an Amway representative?

I am sure there are plenty more examples of stuff like this. If you have any and you want to share, send me an email at If I get enough of them maybe I can do a follow up column – unless you think that would be a stupid thing to do.

Thank you for reading this column.

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