Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
When I was a young boy, my neighbor, old Mr. McGuillicuddy, used to say, “By the time you’re my age, sonny, you’re an expert on just about everything.”
Apparently, at that point in time, old Mr. Mac had yet to become an expert on remembering to wear pants while walking through the neighborhood, but there is some truth to his statement. The experiences of life often give us a lot of knowledge on various topics.
There are two types of experts in the world: the real experts, those who have studied and trained and are gainfully employed in a particular field—such as doctors and plumbers and airline pilots. And there are the “been there, done that” experts, the amateurs who learned about an issue because they reluctantly had to deal with it at some point in their life—such as old Mr. Mac getting shot at in World War I and being a hobo during the 1930s. Which brings us to an unfortunate truth about the “been there, done that” brand of expertise: it usually comes at a very high price.
For example, I consider myself an expert on knee ligaments (ever since my high school coach had the brilliant idea of letting the slow, white guy run back kick-offs, which produced the predictable result of putting me on an operating table before halftime) and well pumps (ever since the real estate agent said, “…and this home has its own well, so you’ll never have to spend a dime for water!” which is technically true since we have not spent a dime for water, it’s been more like five grand for water, including a new pump, a new foot valve, a new holding tank, and the $80 per hour backhoe fee to have our front lawn dug up…twice!).
I now know so much about knees and wells, I can easily bore anyone to tears at a cocktail party. But the price I’ve paid has been high: my knee often wakes me up in the middle of the night to announce that the weather is changing; the well-drilling contractor expects me to make his truck payments for him next year, too; and people frequently dive out the window at cocktail parties when they see me coming.
Now, of course, no matter how long you live, you cannot become an expert on everything. There are many topics that I would much rather remain ignorant about, such as:
Yes, I truly hope that I will never become an expert on these topics. But as the years fly by and as I get closer and closer to middle age (“middle age,” by the way, is actually a pretty vague term—it refers to whatever age is ten years older than your current age, even if you’re 90), I realize that I am acquiring expertise on a wide range of issues. I have recently become an expert on:
At this rate, it won’t be long before I’m as knowledgeable as old Mr. McGuillicuddy. I just hope when I tell the neighborhood kids what an expert I am, I remember to wear pants.
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