This may come as a surprise to a lot of folks out there, but I don’t now a lot about anything.
OK, so surprise may be too strong a word. Mild shock might better capture your feelings, or gentle bewilderment. In fairness, a few of you might not be bewildered at all. Some may even be willing to take the statement a step or two further, as in the case of one recent reader who was kind enough to point out that my opinions on the recent presidential race were, as she so eloquently put it, “so ignorant they make me puke.” She went on to say I know “nothing but sarcasm and nastiness.” That is wholly untrue. While I am certainly versed in sarcasm and nastiness, they do not constitute my full arsenal. I also have acerbity, derision and a couple of cases of causticity available, should the need arise.
All that aside, I am admittedly lacking in expertise when it comes to, well pretty much everything. I wouldn’t want you to think me a complete idiot. I just happen to be the kind of fellow who knows a little about a lot. A knowledge grazer if you will, content with a lighter diet of history, science, literature and the rest rather than the hearty meal that is true expertise in any one area. Call it a pupu platter of passions if you must.
I know, for example, a bit more than most folks about Baroque music and the writing of John Irving. I am a minor authority on the Babylonian Captivity (or Avignon Papacy, if you prefer) and can mix a darn fine margarita. And I think it goes without saying that if the subject of where to find the best hot wing in a three-state area ever comes up, I’m your go-to guy.
I don’t mention this just to brag. It’s just something I started thinking about while watching the Discovery Channel a few days ago. Like any American male between the ages of 28 and 120, a good portion of my television time is spent watching the various and sundry happenings on what we faithful have come to call simply “Discovery.” There is no channel better suited for we bearers of limited knowledge. A hardcore viewer can store away three maybe four bits of actual information in just eight hours of watching — valuable information about important things such as the mating habits of the Atlantic sponge (which we won’t discuss in a family paper) and why centralized European governments dominated New World civilizations (better passing game).
Sure, I can’t figure out how to replace that doohickey that makes the sink thingamabob drip, but I’ll be able to buy a new sink when the “Jeopardy” crew comes a callin’. Watch me run the board on “Potent Potables” and then say I’ve been wasting my time.
It was during one of my “Discovery” marathons that I heard about Dr. Michael Pluntz, referred to in this particular offering as “Perhaps the world’s leading expert on the eating habits of the African dung beetle.” The “perhaps” was tossed into the declaration, I assume, to placate any lone-wolf entomologists out there who may indeed know more about what certain dung beetles eat. They’re just off the radar a touch, or largely ignored because of some presumed inability to “play the dung heap politics” Dr. Pluntz has apparently mastered.
Whatever the case, it struck me odd that a man could work his way up to the level of “World’s Leading Expert” on a topic of such minutia. Setting aside the majority assumption that a dung beetle is thus named because IT EATS DUNG, what would make a person aspire to such a stature in so obscure a field. I mean, it’s nice to be good at what you do, but how hard did this guy have to work to be top of the dung heap, if you will forgive the obvious pun.
Then it struck me. If Dr. Pluntz can become “The World’s Leading Expert” in something like dung consumption, maybe there is some track of trivia in which I can establish myself. Somewhere out there is a field so abstruse that no one else has bothered to study it.
I could become the World’s Leading Expert in, say, the use of Post-It Notes in mid-1990s newsrooms (abundant), or the use of metaphor and irony in post-Tiger “Brady Bunch” episodes (not so abundant). Maybe I could keep it closer to home, study the battle response of the average American 14-year-old when faced with a big sister’s attempt to wear her favorite scarf without permission (brutal), or the effects of guilt on the 48-year-old husband attempting to sneak out to watch Monday Night Football (equally brutal).
Of course there’s no point in being the World’s Leading Expert in something if no one wants to ask you about it. I’m sure Dr. Pluntz knew going into the field that a Discovery Channel special on dung was inevitable, particularly in an election year. But how certain is a televised study on late 20th century newspaper memorandum or for that matter, the typically mundane goings-on in the Mills house?
Although with 500 channels on the television horizon, and Discovery running out of other animals to feature, maybe they’ll be getting around to me sooner than I think, at which point I will see that blessed banner beneath my already overexposed mug reading proudly, “World’s Leading Expert.”
Or maybe not, after all, what do I know?