I was trapped in line in the grocery store the other day, mostly because I’d already opened the bag of gummy bears and eaten a few and now had to pay for the gooey things. The lady in front of me kept trying to engage me in conversation about the headlines on the tabloids and magazines, hence the gummy bears: every time she tried to start talking to me, I would pop more bears in my mouth and make motions like I couldn’t talk because I was chewing. It was either eat the candy or the whole cloves of raw garlic in my cart, so I went with the bears.
Anyway, this quite elderly and quite conservative woman kept insisting that everything would be fine if we would just go back to the days when you had to pass an exam to get to vote. You know, back when we had exams to keep a “certain element” from voting, she said. I tried to answer with, “Oh, you mean back when your redneck sheriff and his posse of Klansmen decided black people and women didn’t need to vote,” but the gummy bears kept me from saying something ugly.
She kept on talking, even after I got out my phone and started shopping for ringtones to drown out her manifesto. Finally, she announced, “The real problem in this country is there’s no common sense anymore.”
She got me. I swallowed my bears and told her, “That’s because there’s no such thing as common sense. Common sense is really the stuff that you used to learn by growing up in an environment where people made good decisions on a daily basis. Now, we’ve shoved the job of parenting off on the schools and no one is teaching people common sense.”
“Well,” she answered smugly, “you don’t TEACH common sense. You just HAVE it.”
“And that’s where you’re wrong,” I said, offering her the gummy bears so she could shut up for a minute. “You’re not born knowing things, common sense comes from experience. If the people in your life are so poverty stricken that they don’t have the opportunity to make life decisions, of course you’re going to grow up not learning common sense.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but I applied a generous helping of gummy bears.
“Have you ever been trapped in the woods without food? No,” I said, looking her up and down, “I don’t think you have. Here’s some information that might seem like common sense, but if you’ve never had the experience, then you really wouldn’t know it. If you’re ever trapped in the wilderness with nothing to eat, you should start by eating your feet first. Then work your way up your legs as the need for food continues. It will keep you from starving to death, and when you’re finally rescued, medical science has come a lot farther with prosthetic legs than with prosthetic arms. Your quality of life with artificial legs will be somewhat higher than with artificial arms. And besides, you’re going to do a better job of surviving out there with your arms still in tact, because making a fire to keep warm is gonna be a BITCH if you’ve eaten your hands. See? Common sense. You just didn’t know about it, because you didn’t have the life experience.”
It’s really weird, she didn’t want to talk to me after that, and it wasn’t because she was eating my gummy bears.