My World is almost Normal: Stupidity & our Government

This is the time of the year when I wonder what it would be like to be a senior. I suspect that many of them are very focused on grad school, while others (and here I refer to computer science majors and I-bankers) will get a job soon after graduating from Williams and earn a yearly salary roughly equal to the gross national product of Madagascar. Still, others are probably putting the finishing touches on a thesis (stealing from one source is plagiarism, stealing from many sources is research), and I’d imagine that all three groups are having trouble focusing on their classes at hand.

I remember the final weeks of my senior year in high school; class attendance must have dropped 70 percent. It is understandable that seniors would be preoccupied by late April, and thus let various things slip in their daily lives. I am a junior, and hence I have no excuse for the myriad stupidities I seem to keep committing. I can only hope that some of you have also experienced this phenomenon.

Stupidity begins in the daily routine. My alarm sounds when the clock reads 9:45 a.m. This is not the real time, as I have cleverly set my clock ahead to fool myself into believing I am late, and thus hopefully I will move faster. Unfortunately, Williams students are rather perceptive, and I inevitably realize that my clock is fast, and thus I rely on the extra five minutes. This necessitates my setting the clock ahead another five minutes or so. Ad infinitum. At one point, my clock was far enough ahead that I didn’t need to change it for daylight savings time. The purpose of a clock is not for me to know the time, but merely to keep me from being late. Just ask my professors how well that works.

Lunch always provides more opportunities for mildly stupid actions. If I need a spoon, I will unconsciously get a fork and a knife. If I need a knife, I will end up with a fork and a spoon. If I need no silverware at all, I’ll get all three. Similarly, I will serve myself food from the far side of the salad bar by reaching across, then go around to that side and serve myself something from the first side, which I didn’t see before. It’s not as if I dump my tray in my lap every day (although I have done so on occasion), but I can’t seem to avoid being plagued by minor moronic actions.

Anyway, these are the types of daily stupidities that we deal with in life. We enter rooms and forget why we went there. We run up stairs and walk on flat ground. One might attribute it to cerebral flatulence. Or maybe it’s just the cold weather affecting our woefully unprotected skulls. I took home all my winter clothes over spring break, because nobody ever needs winter clothes in April. Then it snowed. Then it was 70-odd degrees. Then it snowed again. I get the feeling some mischievous angel in the sky has done the celestial equivalent of pushing all the elevator buttons. I tried numerous ways of dealing with the weather, including singing, gritting my teeth and just letting my jacket flap in the wind. I came to the following conclusion: It’s cold out.

Worse yet, my country keeps asking me to do them favors. Now, signing up for the draft at 18 wasn’t too bad, because I figure we won’t need to draft people anytime soon. World War III would probably only take about half an hour anyway. However, this week I got the census form. Aside from being a waste of government money, the census is also an invasion of privacy, especially if you get stuck with the long form. And filling out the race question has always bothered me. I’m sick of being white; it’s so dull. Native American culture is fascinating, Asian culture has a rich history, and I’m forever doomed to be white. Well, no more. White, as a race, really fails to allow me to identify myself with a group I feel connected to. Considering my moral objections, I did what any mature person would do. I checked the “other” box under race and wrote in “Solipsist.”

I figure I’m safe, since the census specifies that the information you give cannot be used by any other government agency or in any court of law. Unfortunately, jury duty comes with no such guarantee, and pretty much anything aside from total obedience results in a hefty fine for being in contempt of court. I received jury duty last week, and I can tell you that I am definitely feeling contemptuous towards court. I called to inform them that I had no transportation and thus couldn’t necessarily get to court at the appropriate date. The “helpful” person on the other end of the line informed me that if I wanted to get a special exemption, I would have to appear at court and ask for it in person. “So,” I asked, “I have to show up in court to explain why I can’t show up in court.”

“Yes.” And somehow I think she failed to see the irony. Either that, or she was enjoying herself immensely and not letting on. Anyway, I sent in a postponement form, but eventually my time to pay the piper will come again. Do they really need college students to do this? We’re somewhat busy, and most of us aren’t Massachusetts residents. Even if I wanted to do some civic duty (which I don’t), I’d want to do it in my home state. Civic duties in Rhode Island include running the “Welcome to Rhode Island” sign to whatever side of the state you see someone about to enter, selling the mayor’s brand of marinara sauce, and shooting anyone who asks if Rhode Island is part of New York. These are jobs I could handle, but I’m really unqualified to sit on a jury – which I’ll have to convince them of, come September. Otherwise, I still need a ride to Pittsfield on the 4th…