Goodness, Like a Fetter

by Jason Peters on March 5, 2014 · 4 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Culture, High & Low


Rock Island, IL

The people who use dating websites are too young and good-looking to need them.

This is the conclusion I’ve come to since being disenfranchised and, in consequence, acquiring access to television. The girls on the ads for these singles dot coms can’t possibly have difficulty getting dates. Surely each one of them has given out several false phone numbers since yesterday. I’d wager that if there’s a Battavia native among them, she gave one to the Battavian sage at an Elba diner this morning, all the while professing an uncontrollable attraction to balding pudgy men in blue button-down shirts and wrinkled khaki pants.

I, on the other hand, were I to be cut loose by the Eye-Roller, as no doubt I deserve to be (explanation forthcoming)—I would no doubt strike out in a geisha house, if a man may be permitted to borrow from the fund of Trapper Johnisms. And should I ever be seen with one of the girls in the ads, which I manifestly do not wish to be, it would be yet another inexplicable case of “a hot babe with a hurtin’ dude” (to borrow from the fund of my buddy Mike’s isms–he of blessed memory).

But I’ve learned much more than this from my new acquaintance with television. For starters, SportsCenter is insufferable. It would be all style and no substance were there any style to it at all. And were it at all governed by taste, it would know better than to cover the NBA or any other professional sports except those provided by our D-1 diploma mills.

I also learn that I can drop 130 pounds in four days and get the abs and booty I’ve always wanted simply by purchasing a DVD that will show me how to dance on a rooftop with a bunch of bulimics, the Manhattan skyline keeping vigil in the backdrop. And the key to a sexier me is a raised plastic stepping thing with a name so sophisticated it damn-near suckers me into buying it in four easy installments of $29.99, unless I wait for Jizzer-Jazzer-Juzz to eliminate one of the payments, which I expect it will do twenty-two minutes into a commercial clearly meant to appeal to my baser nature. Stepping up and down on the raised plastic thing, I am assured, will get me all the action I want—and some. Except I don’t want a skeletal mirror-gazing soul-mate.

I also learn that there’s a James Bond movie titled You Only Live Twice—or Die Twice. I’m not paying close enough attention and can’t use a pencil to write it down because this fancy new remote control thing is in my hand. I’m not even kidding. This is a wireless remote. Who ever heard of such a thing? What will they think of next?

I can also rededicate my life to Jesus Christ enough times to wear out my rededicator. Plus there’s an added bonus: I can get three CDs that will show me the secret financial code woven into (and throughout) God’s Word—a code that will lead to my financial independence if I can’t sell the movie rights to Dispatches from Dumb-Ass Acres. I knew the Bible to be a versatile book, but I had no idea.

And it appears that God wants me to live a Happy and Meaningful Life. So at last we’re agreed, though I’d like to negotiate the price. I admit that $19.99 isn’t a lot of money, but I can’t help believing that the free gift to me for buying the Happy And Meaningful Instructional CD—the free gift is a battery-operated LED keychain that, when squeezed, plays “Just As I Am”—doesn’t actually add to the cost of my meaningfulness and happiness.

Also the End Times are at hand, in case you hadn’t heard. Don’t feel bad: I hadn’t either until television entered my life. I’m told in a preposition-mad declaration that these are very exciting times in which to be alive in. I am enjoined by an earnest young preacher to “appreciate the levity of the situation.” I think about calling the number at the bottom of my screen to assure him that I do.

I am especially heartened to learn from a skirt-hiking friend at Faux News that the co-founder of some whacko environmental group has gone on record saying that there is no scientific proof that man is the primary cause of climate change—and that this could make Al Gore roll over in his grave were he in it, which is where he belongs. So, Single Isolated Person: 1, Scientific Community: 0. And thus by irrelevance do we find relevance out.

Television: badness, like a shackle.

It might be pointed out that a man of my refined tastes could easily leave the television off and resume his efforts to finish the gossipy book about college basketball here at his side. But that would be to overlook the promised explanation about being cut loose by the Eye-Roller. For I resort to television, and eschew the gossipy book, to increase the despair that I myself induce. I need greater cause for despair than the causes I myself set in motion—and then become the effects of.

Do I speak of the grim task of ripping the seat and guts out of an old toilet and replacing them with a new seat and guts—all just to save a few bucks for the kids’ bathroom at D-A A? That’s causal. But no. I undertake that task that because I’m a cheap bastard—and because they’re just kids.

Do I speak of being in the second of two ecclesiastical seasons in Orthodoxy—namely, Great Lent? (The other season of the Church is called “It’s-Almost-Great-Lent.”) That too is causal. But no.

Do I speak of a sad departure from my family and my embarking upon the third academic trimester?

Again: causal. But no … and yes. I’ve departed, all right. And now, late at night, a six-hour drive behind me (objectionable on so many levels for this chief-of-localist hypocrites), as I start tweaking my syllabus for my eight-thirty class tomorrow, I finally take a look at the official academic calendar. I need to know when such annoyances as Easter Recess for skiing in Vail are. My eye catches the date on which the term starts.

It’s next week.

Son of a . . . What the . . . Holy. . . .

I reach for my own calendar, which I never consult because I can hardly ever find it and seldom write anything in it. I flip to the month of March and see that at some point of uncharacteristic forethought I did in fact plot out each week of the term in pencil. I have no memory of doing this, but that’s my handwriting. No question. Apparently I did at one time know that classes start not this week but next week.

When at last I return to earth from my panic, like Charlie belching his way back down to the floor of the Chocolate Factory, I realize there’s nothing to do but call the Eye-Roller and really give her something to roll her eyes about. So I take a deep breath, swallow drily, and dial her number.

“Hi!” she says gaily, four hundred miles away from him who has just ascended to a soaring new height of dumb-assedness. “How are you?” She’s so glad to hear my voice, and I’m so glad she’s glad. But I know this won’t last.

“Been better.”

“What’s wrong?” In her voice there’s a trace of heightened concern, which may come in useful, but there’s no point delaying this, so I barge in.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

“What? What’s wrong?” The concern is even more elevated now—a good sign for sure. She thinks something bad happened to me. Maybe she thinks I re-injured my ankle or ribs.

“I’m looking at the academic calendar,” I say. “Classes don’t start this week. They start next week.”

There’s a pause, and I don’t think it’s to process relief vis a vis the ankle.

At length she parts with a wonted phrase, complete with its usual emphases: “You have got to be kidding me.”

I’d like to be. I would like to be setting up a really good punch-line. But for once I’m not. Here I pause. Here I raise my sign of failure, my debenezer.

And, goddess that she is, she starts to laugh. At me? With me? Not near me, that’s for sure. Would that it were so.

And, just like that, her goodness, like a fetter, binds my wandering heart to her.

So, you see, it can get more dumb-assed, and there’s nothing to do now, really, except go in search of something that can induce greater despair than my own hulking despair-inducing dumb-assery. Fortunately, DirecTV provides.

And as for me, I may be a dumb-ass, but I’m a lucky dumb-ass. Praise the mount—I’m fixed upon it—mount of the Eye-Roller’s redeeming love.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jason Fisher March 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Man, you cannot catch a break, can you? One of those days, opening another one of those months, in one of those seasons-that-won’t-end for you. Sorry!

avatar Gary Horn March 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm

It’s so rare and refreshing to read the courageous admissions of a fellow dumb-ass. I am not alone!

avatar Dianne March 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm

A professor at the graduate institution my husband attended went to a conference. Upon his return, he called his wife from the Boston airport and asked her, “Why aren’t you here to pick me up?” She replied, “Honey, you drove to New York.”

avatar Chris Madden March 12, 2014 at 7:42 am

I thought every teacher (kindergarten – PhD. advisers) began every school year with the chief of all priorities: searing into memory those hallowed dates when one doesn’t have to teach!

I’m sure you’ve already concluded that your only and “best” solution is to purchase a “smart” device to remind you of these matters.

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