Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
File name: “illeteracy”
I was reading some motivational web page and I came across this sentence – “Think about what your (sic) passionate about and don’t stop until you master it!”
I thought, well, clearly this writer’s passion isn’t grammar. Ha! Then I thought, hey, I’ll do a whole column about the decline of the English language, especially online! What a hilarious, unique and totally unexplored topic! I opened a file, named it “illeteracy,” then pasted in that sentence about passion.
I know, that’s kind of an obvious joke, right? To misspell the word “illiteracy” as a way of introducing a column about the lack of literacy? The thing is, though – I didn’t misspell it as a joke. I misspelled it because I spelled it wrong. For real. I’m hereby disqualified from writing this column.
• File name: “who final concert”
In 1982 the final performance of The Who’s Farewell Tour was broadcast live on HBO. Their last show ever! I was a fan at the time, and I attempted to capture this bit of musical history, but I didn’t program the VCR correctly and taped “Zorro, the Gay Blade” instead. I was very upset, and might have even cried. Sure, NOW we all know that The Who went on to spend the next 30 years performing farewell concerts – I’m willing to bet that the original 1982 version is on YouTube – but at that moment I was devastated.
I’ve been working on this column on and off for years, trying to interject some funny and insightful commentary about the nature of time, and disappointment, and how what was once a big deal is now laughable, but it just isn’t happening, and I’m convinced that it never will. Gotta let this one go. I even have my doubts about including it in this list. I can’t even come up with a sly “won’t get fooled again” joke for this last sentence!
• FILE: “wooden spoon”
One day in third grade science we were studying heat conductivity. (Metal conducts heat, wood doesn’t…in case you missed that day.) Our teacher boiled a pot of water and stuck a wooden spoon in it, then walked around and let each of us touch the spoon to see for ourselves how undeniably room temperature it remained. Mine was the first desk she approached, and when I touched the spoon I quickly drew back my hand and yelled “OW!”
What a jokester!
Except that I didn’t really do that. But I so want to be the type of person who WOULD do that that I’ve convinced myself that I did. In my head I can see myself doing that, like it really happened. The truth is that I touched the spoon, said, “Yes, m’am,” and sat quietly for the rest of the school year.
In what other (hilarious) ways am I not like I think I am? In 800 words or less, explain, discuss, compare and contrast. Or, better yet, abandon.
• FILE: “hid dollar”
I used to have an after-school job cleaning up a bar. Customers would start to trickle in while I worked. Many of these customers were relatives of mine, and occasionally they’d hide dollar bills behind chairs so I would find them as I mopped. I thought this would make for a touching, folksy column. As it is, it barely cuts it as a touching, folksy paragraph.
• FILE: “dear planter’s people”
I saw “Please address all correspondence to…” printed on a can of Planter’s nuts, and I wondered who would be corresponding with the Planter’s people? And about what? And what if I wrote a column that was just such a letter? So I began…
“Dear Planter’s People, I don’t usually write such letters, but your can of Cashew Halves and Pieces has confused and upset me in ways I never thought possible. I thought it best to take this matter up directly with you.”
Hey, wait a minute…I think this one might actually have some potential…
(Next time: “Dear Planter’s People…”)
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