Barry Smith: Barry’s point(er) of no return |

Barry Smith: Barry’s point(er) of no return

Each summer I allow myself one new toy, but it must meet some rather strict criteria. My summer toy must (1) be very, very cheap, (2) require a minimum of physical exertion to operate, and (3) be even cheaper than was indicated in item No. 1.

Last summer it was The Gavel.

The Gavel came in very handy for indicating that my mind was made up and no further discussion would be tolerated. After a full season of bringing the gavel crashing down on whatever surface was handy, I developed a case of chronic Judge’s Elbow, requiring months of self-medication.

The Gavel, like many of my summer toys, has since mysteriously disappeared. My wife pleads innocent, but her plea doesn’t count, because I have no gavel to make it official.

But that’s OK, because this summer I have purchased an even cooler toy – The Pointer.

“The pointer?” you ask.

“The pointer,” I reply.

“The POINTER?” you ask again.

“The pointer,” I repeat, and this exchange continues for a lot longer than you would think – yet another reason I miss The Gavel.

The pointer of which I speak is not one of those laser pointers, but the old-fashioned, metal, telescoping variety – kind of like a pocket-sized car antenna. Very old school.

This particular pointer, according to the very limited information on the package (no operating instructions at all), telescopes to a full 25-and-one-quarter inches. That’s a lot of pointing power, I’ll admit. Maybe more than the average person requires. But since this is a telescoping pointer, it can be extended to practically any fraction of its full length! The advantages of this feature will become obvious momentarily, just as soon as you’ve stopped saying, “The pointer?” over and over again.

There are moments in life when we are required to be very specific about what we are trying to communicate. Pointing with our fingers, as we all know, is very impolite. But pointing with a pointer is a different story. Not only does it give the one doing the pointing a certain air of authority, but it also eliminates the margin of error associated with waving around a stubby finger.

Here’s a real-life example: Suppose you’re having a first-date dinner. The person sitting across from you is, more than likely, eating a burrito. Chances are good that at some time during the evening your date will gaze into your eyes and smile warmly, revealing not only their approval of your charming personality, but also that they have a big hunk of black bean wedged between their teeth.

The prepointer-wielding you would have had reason to panic. Do you tell them, or just hope that the bean remnant works its way free during the next few bites? Will it be upsetting to let them know that they have a big tooth hanger, or will they be grateful? If you had a “bean tooth” going, you’d want to be told, right? But still, what about the painful ritual that always follows such a confession? Since most of us don’t have a common vocabulary when it comes to teeth (NOTE: If you are both oral hygienists, this example wouldn’t really work, as you could just say, “You have an obstruction in your upper third bicuspid,” or whatever) we are forced to go through the strange dance of “Go like this,” (while making a tooth sucking motion). No, the other side. No, over one more. Nope, still there …” And so on.

But now, you can just pull it (the pointer) from your pocket, extend it to a length appropriate for how the date is going so far, and indicate precisely the area of the mouth where the stubborn legume resides, perhaps even gently tapping the metal tip against the tooth in question.

Accurate, decisive, authoritative … and I think you can see how this will score you big points for later on in the evening.

Other uses for the pointer include:

– Giving amazingly accurate directions.

– Hilarious puns. Approach someone who is struggling with a problem, say, “Can I give you a couple of pointers?” and then quickly hand them two fully extended pointers. (Extra pointer required.)

– Indicating the exact area of your back that you want scratched.

– Pointing out the shortcomings and personality flaws of others.

– Just basically, you know, pointing at stuff.

You, too, can get your very own pointer at fine stores where pointers are sold.

Without it, life would surely be pointless. It’s going to be a great summer.

[ Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]

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