Monday, December 13, 2010

"Oldies but Goodies"

I don’t know why this tickled me when I noticed it, but when it does, down it goes. It’s a blog post. I hope it’s worthy. If it’s not, remember – this is free.

As I mentioned in my last post - though it was probably too obvious to report - I’m a contrarian. In its purest form, being a contrarian means that what other people notice, I notice the opposite. I do not do this to draw attention to myself – my reaction is too spontaneous to be premeditated, it is simply the way my mind works. Apparently, it has been programmed at the setting of “I’m different.”

What I noticed recently led me to imagine a scenario wherein I am taking a stroll with a man from the thirteenth century. Call me anti-social, but my preference is to stroll with imaginary people. Such company never criticizes me for talking to myself.

“Talking to myself” is really a misnomer. When I appear to be talking to myself, I am generally engaging in conversation with an imaginary person. The imaginary person consequently never feels excluded, because I’m talking to them. In contrast to a flesh and blood human I occasionally walk with, who I rarely talk to at all. I’m not being rude. I’m just busy talking to the imaginary person.

Who in this case is a man from the thirteenth century. This one happens to be a peasant. Not by choice. It was just something he fell into. If you wanted to be part of the “nobility”, you had to have the good fortune to be born to the right kind of parents. In a Manor House. This guy just missed. He was born in the barn right next door.


The non-contrarian version of this story would have me extolling the miraculous advancements that have emerged over the past eight hundred years.

“Have you overcome death?”


“Well, I’m sure the other stuff is good. But compared to overcoming death, they’re pretty much Christmas presents.”

It is here that the story takes a contrarian turn. Rather than trying to wow the medieval visitor over with testimonials for penicillin and texting, it is the visitor who spearheads the conversation.

Our stroll takes us past a homeowner, sweeping off their front porch.

“Is that a broom?”


“It looks like it’s made out of straw.”

“It is.”

We used to have straw brooms. You’re still using them, huh?”

“Some people prefer nylon, which is a man-made material. But I’m told they don’t work as well as straw brooms.”

“Straw brooms didn’t work that great either. I mean, it gathered the debris eventually. But you had to keep sweeping the same spot over and over. No one sweep and you got it all.”

“That’s pretty much the same today.”

“No kidding. You’d think after eight hundred years…”

Blindsided by the broom, I am eager to demonstrate we haven’t just been sitting around.

“We have a machine, you slide in a document, push a button, and a copy of that document instantly rolls out of a machine half way around the world.”

“Hold on a second. Is that a rake?”


“I can’t believe it! Those things never worked. You pull in the leaves, some come, some don’t come. A little pile of leaves, it could take you a day. Which was fine for us. What else did we have to do? But for people who instantly send documents half way around the world…”

“Point taken. Though the document senders are not the same as the leaf rakers. It’s an entirely different group of people.”

“I see. So you still have peasants.”

“Well, they get paid.”

“A lot?”

“They’re raking leaves!”

“Lemme tell you something. This place is not that different.”

“I guess not so much for some people.”

My people. I bet you still have shovels.”

“You’re kind of cherry-picking here.”

“You haven’t improved on them at all?”

“We have bigger shovels. But they’re harder to lift.”

“In my day, shovels were the laughingstocks of farm implements. You scoop up a bunch of whatever you’re scooping up, and while you’re carrying it to the thing you want to dump it into – I’m being generic here, so as to be inclusive – half of the stuff falls off.”

“I’m getting your point here. From an upgrading standpoint, menial chores have received insufficient attention.”

“That’s a good point. Though not exactly what I was thinking.”

“Which was what?”

“That if you’re not a contrarian, you’ll never notice how many things we’re doing the same way they did them eight hundred years ago.”

“And why is that important?”

“It isn’t. Unless you’re looking for an unusual story.”


YEKIMI said...

Nowadays you can walk around and talk to yourself and no one will think you're crazy. They'll just think you have a Bluetooth ear/mouthpiece and are talking on a cell phone. Now, if they think you're talking to a 13th century man on the cell phone, all bets are off.

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Gary said...

Hard to believe that nobody in your neighborhood owns and uses a leaf blower, but since they usually turn them on about 7 a.m., you two probably avoided that explanation. I'm beginning to understand why your Becker episodes were so good, Dr. Contrarian. Saw another one of yours last night, but I've forgotten the title. Was from season 2. I missed the first 2 or 3 seasons, so these are all new to me.