The problem with writing a book about stupidity is not that it’s hard, but that it’s too easy. There’s so much stupidity in the world that you honestly have to work hard to evaluate which items show stupidity of such a high degree that you should include it, and which are simply your garden variety of stupidity.
Examples, you say. Fine. In addition to a number of longer “think pieces” (heh) about examples of stupidity in action — the French deciding to use cavalry at Agincourt, say, or Gary Hart daring reporters to trail him — the book will also include a fair amount of crowd-pleasing short bits featuring contemporary examples of stupidity, based on current news bits (or “Ripped From The Headlines!” as the NBC announcer would say about any Law & Order episode). I’ll jazz them up, of course, which my own editorial comments so the book won’t be just another collection of dumb people doing dumb things, but even so. You need the stuff in the present to give the stuff in the past some resonance, as if to say, look, stupidity is with us yet.
But in just one day, you find too many candidates. Yesterday I read about:
* The purse snatcher who was arrested when she tried to pass a check to a cashier whose checks she had stolen — and then handed over the cashier’s driver’s license as ID;
* A town civic pride ad campaign inadvertently featuring positive quotes from a convicted child molester;
* A man who tried to avoid jury duty by cussing out the court’s answering machine and was sentenced to three days in jail by the judge;
* A robot toy promotion from Coca-Cola which features Nazi-type swastikas;
* Two Southwest Pilots fired for getting naked together in the (hah!) cockpit;
* President Bush may end up being a write-in candidate in Alabama because the Republican convention has been moved later than the state’s deadline to certify candidates;
* Police in Belgium clamping down on public urination arrest a man urinating on a police car;
* A South African motorist arrested after being pulled over, having no license and telling the cops his wife’s license also covered him;
* The Mexican man who is offering his kidney for about $60,000 in order to bail his brother out of jail for murder;
* Ikea having to recall advertisements in Germany after discovering the name of one of their products — a children’s bunk bed — is coincidentally the same as the German expression for “good fuck.”
I mean, where do you begin? Aside from the Bush thing, which is pretty amusing but I probably won’t use because I’m avoiding Dubya material so it won’t inadvertently politicize the book, they’re all just so good. But I can’t use them all. I’ll probably use two at most. But which should I choose? Which would you choose? (That’s a real question, by the way. Answer in the comments)
I have a vague inclination to shy away from the “stupid criminals” genre, since it’s been done to death, but some may just be too good to pass up. I mean, it does take a breathtaking brand of stupid to pass a check to the very same woman whose purse you’ve stolen. That deserves to be commemorated somewhere. But does it deserve to be commemorated more than Coke’s Nazi-branded robot toy? Or the urinating Belgian? Or the foul-mouthed jury shirker? You see my quandary.
So, really: Out of all the selections above, you get to choose two for inclusion in the book. What are your picks? Tell me, and then later in the day I’ll tell you which two I’m most likely to use. Meanwhile, off to do a little work, and to cull some more examples of stupidity in action.