Common nonsense

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Oops! I dropped my glass of milk and it spilled all over the floor. What’s wrong with that statement? There’s nothing wrong with that statement, it makes perfect sense. If you drop a glass of milk and it hits the floor IT IS SUPPOSED to spill all over. It would be completely illogical if you dropped your glass of milk on the floor and it didn’t spill. That wouldn’t make sense. And stuff should make sense, don’t you think?

Common sense has always been something of a comfort to me. Good sense is the one rule of thumb that should always be true. (By the way, what is a “rule of thumb” anyway? Why isn’t it a “rule of pinky” or a rule of “index finger?” Or even a “rule of ring finger?” Let’s hold on to that thought for a future column.)

Call it common sense, logic, or rational thinking — it’s all the same. Using your good sense is a way of navigating yourself through the complexities of daily life. For example, walking in enclosed shoes is restrictive and going barefoot is more comfortable. But our common sense tells us that wearing shoes protects our feet from hot cement, stepping on nails and glass, and squishing our toes in dog poop.

If you don’t wear shoes and you step on a rusty nail, you have to go to a doctor or the emergency room and get a tetanus shot. And nobody wants to have a needle stuck in their skin if they don’t have to, right? Or do they?

Common sense works fine for many things, but don’t count on it for everything. In our postmodern world where universities teach that there are no absolutes and no hard and fast rules, relying on common sense and old-fashioned logic may not apply. I’ll show you what I mean:

“Hey, Carl, where are you off to this afternoon?”

“Hi, George. I thought I’d pop into the tattoo shop and get myself illustrated.”

“Doesn’t getting stuck with needles hurt?”

“Well, yeah, but after a few hours you don’t feel it so much. Then after a few days when the scabs heal, the itching lessens and it starts to feel okay.”

“Isn’t it rather expensive to have multiple tattooing done?”

“Expensive is relative. Compared to buying a new car it hardly costs anything at all. Tattooing is only around $100 to $300 per hour or so, although it could cost more for various colors and depending how involved the tattoos are. Oh sure, it might get into the thousands of dollars, but like I said, you’d spend more on a car.”

“The ink that is inserted under your skin is permanent, right?”

“Not really. If I want any of it taken off I can always have a series of laser removals done.”

“Is that a big deal?”

“Nah, no problem. It might hurt a bit, but for about $200 to $500 a treatment they can get most of the ink out. Usually”

“So let me get this straight. Getting tattooed is painful. It’s costly. And usually the tattoo is in your skin forever. What’s the upside to getting yourself tattooed?”

“It’s self-expression. It’s a way of letting people know what my views are on things.”

“Why don’t you just put a bumper sticker on your car?”

“I don’t drive.”

“See you later, Carl.”

Another thing that doesn’t make sense are unsolicited telemarketing calls. Everybody in the world hates them. They are an intrusion, they are an annoyance, and they make us mad. So why would a company purposely want to irritate a potential customer? Do they believe that making someone angry is a great way to sell them something?

Let’s see, I’ll call someone at an inopportune time, say around the time they might be sitting down for dinner and address them by their first name (“Hey, Greg!”) as if I were a long lost friend, and read a prepared sales spiel without really knowing what I’m talking about and never give the caller a chance to say anything. Yep, that’s how to make a sale! It doesn’t make sense. (I’d be curious to know just how often this technique ends in a sale verses the times it ends in hang ups.)

Frank Lloyd Wright said, “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” He was right. Common sense isn’t common. But do you know what is? Common nonsense. We’ve got that stuff in abundance.

Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.  

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