A Midsummer Night’s Digression [Part 1]

June 8, 2001

[This week’s edition is being split into two parts. It’s also part of my ongoing series, "Summer: People Wish I’d Shut Up About It And Talk About Something Else".]

It’s not summer yet. I heard this during the weather report on TV the other night, while waiting twenty minutes for the local weather report. Remember the good old days when all the weather report did was tell you whether you needed to take an umbrella with you to work? They also mentioned whether the barometer was rising or falling, which nobody really understood, but it sounded good. For instance, if you forgot to take your umbrella to work and got soaked, you could say, "I should have known better. After all, the barometer IS falling," and everyone would think you were a pompous jerk for trying to pretend you knew what that meant. Then they added the humidity. This does you no good unless you live in Arizona, where you can walk around saying, "Gee, the humidity’s so low it doesn’t even feel like it’s 137 degrees," before you collapse from dehydration. Then they added the pollen count, which tells people with allergies how quickly they’re going to suffocate. Lately they’ve been adding even more useless information. They’ve added everything from sunspots to UV levels to the amount of neutrinos bombarding the Earth to the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds. The weather report was so full of things I didn’t want to know that I never did find out when summer’s supposed to start.

Who’s definition of summer are we going by, anyway? It’s probably taken from some almanac written around Shakespeare’s time. You may be surprised to learn that they had weather reporters back then–although they were called "weather criers". They stood in booths by the side of the road saying, "The rain it raineth every day next week, with scattered sunny patches. Such weather doth increase the yellow choler, so be sure to pick up some leeches. This weather cry hath been sponsored by Harry’s Leeches. Yes, Harry’s Leeches, balancing the bodily humors since 1564." This not only was the origin of advertising, but also began the tradition that weather reports are never right. In those days if people predicted the weather accurately, they were believed to be witches and burned at the stake.

We live in a more enlightened time. There are still witches, but most people understand that witches are good people who are concerned about the environment and don’t cast nasty spells. Unfortunately old prejudices die hard, and even though very few are burned at the stake, they are occasionally fired. Anyway, it’s hot, it’s humid, and the kids are out of school, so as far as I’m concerned it’s summer.

[Next week: Bioluminescent coleoptera, "Hey sailor, wanna get lucky?", and conclusive proof that summer is here.]

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


I was sitting outside one cloudy day, reminiscing on all the bad luck I was having. Everything was going wrong. Feeling bad, I looked up to the heavens with outstretched arms and said, "Why me, Lord? Why me?"

Suddenly there was a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning, and as the clouds parted, a booming voice came down from the sky, and said, "Because, there’s something about you that just ticks me off!"


HOW TO KNOW WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE READY TO HAVE KIDS: 

MESS TEST 
Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

TOY TEST 
Obtain a 55 gallon box of Legos (or you may substitute roofing tacks). Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream because this would wake a child at night.

GROCERY STORE TEST 
Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage. 

DRESSING TEST 
Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. (Note: If you have a live octopus, don’t worry about whether it’s unhappy. As soon as you start mauling it, it will be unhappy.–CW) Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all the arms stay inside. 

FEEDING TEST 
Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor. 

NIGHT TEST 
Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8-12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 3:00 p.m. begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 p.m. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 p.m. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00 a.m. Set alarm for 5:00 a.m. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

INGENUITY TEST 
Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet paper tube and turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Use only scotch tape and a piece of foil. Last, take a milk carton, a ping-pong ball, and an empty box of Cocoa Puffs. Make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. 

AUTOMOBILE TEST 
Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it into the cassette player. Take a family size package of chocolate chip cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There, perfect.

PHYSICAL TEST (Women) 
Obtain a large bean bag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Now remove 10 of the beans. And try not to notice your closet full of clothes. You won’t be wearing them for a while. 

PHYSICAL TEST (Men) 
Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT 
Find a couple who already have a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training and child’s table manners. Suggest many ways they can improve. Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run wild. Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers.

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