Inside Looking Out: When absurdity becomes the new normal
Here’s a multiple-choice question. What is the reason why most students fail in school?
A. Bad teaching
B. Don’t comprehend the subject matter
C. Little or no effort
Yup. I’m sure you answered ”C.” Recently I spoke with a former colleague who tells his students on the first day of school, “If you really want to fail, you have to work very hard at it. I will give some credit for almost anything. Raise your hand during a lesson for something other than to go to the bathroom — credit. Write one sentence to answer three questions — credit.
No matter how easy it is to pass his class, some students still succeed in failing.
So how tragic would it be if we grow a generation who holds no pride in themselves? Now I know some kids just don’t like school and will find their niche in the real world, but what if not caring about anything becomes an epidemic and too much of the norm?
Voltaire was a satirist, and he wrote about the brutal violence of the French Revolution in the 15th century. He used outrageous humor to symbolize the horrific absurdity of trying to be optimistic in a world filled with murder and mayhem. We laugh at Voltaire’s story telling, not because it’s funny, but because it portrays the senselessness of men torturing and killing men that everyone got used to as a normal way of life.
Let me be Voltaire for a moment and write you what his take might be about the lack of self-pride in people today. I think you’ll see the satire and absurdity.
“Hello. Is this Pathetic Power Washing?”
“Yeah, is this call gonna take long? You woke me from a nap.”
“Sorry to bother you. I would like to overpay for shoddy work and lousy services.”
“We usually overcharge anyway. How much more you gonna offer?”
“I’ll throw in an extra hundred if the work is really bad and I’m totally dissatisfied.”
“We’ll do worse than our worst in that case. We’ll make sure we leave most of the dirt on the house and we can turn up the water jets and break a few windows too if you like.”
“That would be great. How much time will you need to complete the job?”
“I’ll send five guys to hook up your garden hose to our power washer. That should take about a day. The whole job might take months. We charge by the hour so we work real slow. We take two-hour lunches and a break every 10 minutes. Union rules. You pay for our down time, too.”
“Outstanding. What if one of your workers gets hurt on the job?”
“Happens all the time. We carry no insurance. Last week, Frank fell off a ladder and broke his arm. We’re suing the homeowner for half a mill. Hope to get a couple hundred thou when it all gets settled.”
“Wow. I will pay extra even if someone breaks a nail, and if someone falls and dies, I have no problem selling my house and going bankrupt to pay for the funeral and for the family’s grief.”
“Excellent. I’ll tell my crew not to worry if they fall from 30 feet up and crack open their skulls. I’ll even give them funeral and burial brochures before they come so they can choose beforehand what they want for their services in case they die.”
“Do you provide lunches for your men?”
“Hell no. Cook us up some steaks while we’re there and have plenty of beer. That’s why Frankie fell off the ladder. He was super smashed on the suds. Forgot to mention that when he hit the ground, he killed the family dog. The homeowner was grateful that Frankie wasn’t hurt any more than he was. The owner and his kids joined together and sang “Another One Bites the Dust” over the dead dog. His kids fought over who would get the bigger shovel to dig the grave for the pooch. Buried it right in the front yard and we hammered in one of our company signs right over the spot where the dog’s head would be.”
“Wonderful. We don’t have pets, but I’ll tell the kids to play under your ladders. Just in case somebody falls, he can crush one or the other of my twin daughters so as not to hurt himself.”
“Tell your kids to wear sweat clothes. When we fall we wanna hit something real soft.”
“Will do. When do you think you can start?”
“Who knows? Maybe in a year or two. Have to rest up for the job, you know.”
“How will I know when you’re coming?”
“We’ll just show up and drive right over your lawn. Don’t wanna be too far from the house, you know, because we have to drag the equipment. Anything in the way like fences, flowers or even your kids, we drive right over them. Two jobs ago we drove through a screen porch and nailed the family grandmother who was inside reading a book. She went to the hospital for a month, but the family was pleased that no pages of the book were damaged.”
“Well then. See you whenever.”
“Depends. If the job is too big we might not come at all.”
“That would be fine, too. I’ll mail you the check anyway. Not a problem if I have a dirty house, come to think of it. In fact, after it rains tonight I’ll tell the kids to make some mud balls and smear them all over the storm door glass so no one has to look at all the trash in the yard we haven’t thrown out since last year.”
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.