Someone once suggested to me that I try stand-up comedy. (Well, OK, that person was a therapist.) I guess if I ever did try to craft a humorous monologue based on my personal experiences, one direction I might take would be Keilloresque, making light of an ingrained inferiority complex. Garrison Keillor notes that Minnesota calls itself “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” though in fact the state contains 11,842 lakes, and he goes on from there.
I was subject to the same calculation method. Here are some incidents that someone with more comic talent than I (see what I did there?) might craft into a series of jokes.
We walked about a mile to elementary school. I don’t know if anyone ever really clocked it, but neighbors all said it was a mile. In our house, though, it was “nine-tenths of a mile.”
I hit puberty earlier than most kids. (That could be a whole comic routine there.) I had an identifiable mustache by the time I became a teenager. I never really looked forward to shaving (still don’t), but self-consciousness over looking different began to outweigh the macho feeling of displaying facial hair. I was close to taking the razor plunge when some adult in some context commented on the dark hair on my upper lip. To which my father replied, “I keep thinking he ought to rake that fuzz off.” Well, I thought, if it’s merely “fuzz” that can be “raked off,” why bother? I kept it a good while longer.
Our family finally got a new car when I was in junior high school. The previous car was at that in-between age, old enough to be embarrassing but not old enough to be cool. The new car, a small Ford, got better mileage than any car we’d had previously. Not good by today’s standards, but in the early ’60s anything approaching 20 mpg was considered good. I liked the car, and meticulously computed the mileage on early trips. It was between 17-18 mpg. My father, who didn’t like the car, would tell people it got 15 mpg.
Speaking of cars, during my college days, I drove between Asheville and Chapel Hill several times a year. It was a longer trip then than it is now, because two sections of I-40 were still on the drawing board. At some point, I checked an official reference — a state-issued road map, I think — and found the distance to be listed as 234 miles. It was a few miles further from our house, since we lived on the western edge of town, and Chapel Hill was to the east. Despite my having shared this number, I still hear my father commenting at one point that “it’s about two and a quarter,” lopping off a good 10 miles.
A closer rounding would have been 240. Many people would have said 250. In fact, I think some did. But many people give themselves full credit, and their default rounding is up, rather than down.
There were other examples, but you get the picture. Any one single incident would be fairly innocuous, but over time they add up. None of this ever sounded funny to me, but maybe with the right delivery . . . .