A few weeks ago, the teenagers in our church had a lesson on honesty. One topic that came up was how people will sometimes lie about their lack of knowledge regarding certain popular trends. For instance, one late night talk show has sent someone disguised as a reporter to various big events such as music galas and movie awards. This pretend reporter will then make up names of rock groups or movie titles and ask various people their opinion about them. Instead of admitting they never heard of these (nonexistent) groups or titles, the people cover their ignorance by offering praise that is just as fake as the band or movie they are promoting. (Fake reporter promoting nonexistent band: “I heard ‘Snowblast and the Ponies’ is going to perform today. What do you think of their sound?” Ignorant crowd member: “Oh, yeah. They’re sound is just so raw and real. I’m so excited to hear them live.”) I’m always amazed at the desperate measures people will go to in order to look smart, as though admitting ignorance would somehow be demoralizing for them. However, lying simultaneously proves their ignorance and makes them look bad, thus defeating their purpose for lying in the first place. The truth would have allowed them to keep their integrity.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I am not up on the current trends, and I am going to share some of my findings with you interested readers today. Maybe some of you can enlighten me, or share in my ignorance. Either way, you’ll get a good chuckle.

Over the past few months, a few marquees have displayed messages that are completely foreign to me. I do realize these are most likely advertisements for products I do not, and probably will not, use. But if their purpose is to inform and interest me in actually buying their product, they have lost me by being either too vague or just unappealing. Then again, I may just be out of the popularly desired loop and off wandering along my own paths. But after growing up watching commercials that told me to “taste the rainbow” and tried to convince me about the arbitrary rules that say rabbits can’t eat cereal, but spastic cuckoos and toucans can, I should be able to figure out a marquee, right?

Either way, here is some entertainment from advertising folks at work!

Marquee One:

“Maca What?
New Freal and Muffin”

I understand the muffin. “Freal” sounds like a product named by a Valley Girl (“Like, fer real!”). The thing I relate to most is that question mark.

Marquee Two:

“New Crodo
Try it now!”

I’m wary of trying something with a name that sounds like it came from an elementary school kid after an unfortunate science experiment.

Marquee Three:

“Meat 
the son of Baconater”

True, it’s just a typo. But you try imagining this offspring and see how disturbed you get.

None of these, however, can top the message displayed on the marquee of a popular college burger joint near the campus. This is one I do get. Yes, I think they formatted their marquee this way on purpose. Their message was so fun and popular (and gave our college student brains such a welcome relief of giggles), that it graced the marquee two years’ running at the appropriate season:

“Try our
pumpkin shake
corn dog
89 cents”

Go ahead. Giggle. After all, they fry everything else on a stick.

What have you discovered lately?

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Need a laugh? Go out to lunch. Take your best friend. Meet at one of your favorite hangouts where there the specialty—homemade ice cream—comes in generous portions. Realize how awesome it is that your friend is mature enough to determine that, today, ice cream is lunch. Because it is! (Banana splits have fruit and even protein if one of your toppings is the establishment’s homemade peanut butter sauce.) 

Giggle over the antics of the family and their pets as you regale stories, while delicious ice cream and carmel sauce drip all over your plate and make your hands delightfully sticky. (And express gratitude that napkins, when necessary, are happily plentiful.)

Update each other on various goings-on as you exchange Happy January Winter/Late Christmas presents which make the cold, grey day feel like bright spring. 

Try to remember to breathe as tears—icy in the winter air—stream down your face in laughter after your friend relates an awkward work experience in which a co-worker tells a client that she can qualify for more money once she has some dependents, to which the client responds, “How do I get those?” (Laugh more when you think of the people driving by in the parking lot wondering what is making the two of you laugh so hard, and how they can get in on it.) 

Marvel at your friend’s professionalism as she explains how she holds her breath on the other side of the cubicle to keep from laughing as she hears her co-worker’s awkward silence, and her maturity to resist the urge to go over and ask her co-worker, “Yes, how does one get dependents, dear?” while mentally hearing the opening line, “When a mommy and daddy love each other very much . . .” Cheer for the co-worker who, in her slightly stunned state, is able to form the very professional response that once one gets married and has children, then one has dependents in the form of spouse and said children.

Laugh with good nature when you realize that the dear client was simply asking what a dependent was, but the question implied something else that you would hope a nineteen year-old would know by now, and laugh even harder when you realize you understood your best friend perfectly without her having to explain all of this. Because after so long, friends come to share mental links.

So now upon hearing the word “dependents,” I may smile. And then giggle as I imagine my friend’s infectious giggle. And that may escalate until my sides hurt, my smile is stretched to the limits of my face, and I am once again reminded how gloriously good life is and why it is said that laughter is the best medicine.

Thanks for the dose of the best, Leaf Child!

When your professor walks into your English class with his Austen novel bulging with post-it notes marking his favorite passages, you know this professor loves his literature. And as this professor starts speaking about his favorite pieces, you realize how fortunate you are to be a student of this professor who has the desire to share his love of literature with you. 

Professor Hopkins was this professor. He loved Austen, Scott, and other Romantics, and he let you know why they deserved such praise. He had the courage to begin a semester with William Blake (disregarding his wife’s insistence that to do so would be cruel and insane) and managed to keep all of us enrolled in his class until the end—because he made you realize it was worth it. He recognized when a student’s comment was simply an excuse to bring up their favorite theorist, and would brush their comment aside with a simple and inoffensive, “Uh-huh,” before bringing the discussion back to his actual point. You knew to come to his class prepared because he wouldn’t wait for you. (“I hope you’ve all read the ending.”) And he admitted that his one-page summaries were simply a way to ensure we read the assignment for the day (and that the number of check marks he gave our papers represented his enthusiasm as he read, not necessarily our grade). 

Prof. Hopkins introduced me to Ms. Jane Austen, and his love and genuine joy for her novels made me interested in discovering her other works for myself. George Eliot and Sir Walter Scott were among other authors that took part in the curriculum, and Prof. Hopkins’s enthusiasm for their works was catching. Intelligent lectures, insightful discussions, and the overall feeling of excitement for classic literature made up Prof. Hopkins’s courses. By the end of class, his wild hair would be standing on end from him pulling at it with both hands in excitement in a ferocious attempt to explain his ideas and help us understand the great works he was introducing to us. His boards were covered in unidentifiable symbols and doodles during his lectures—with the occasional word, rare phrase, but never full sentence—which left some of us to wonder what the incoming class might think we were studying. (“I don’t know. This looks like a whirlpool. Then there’s this swiggly line here. Does that say ‘Waverly’? And is this some sort of sun ray blazing down on top of it all?”) In his class, you knew you had found someone who loved literature as much as you did, someone who knew—and reminded you—why stories were amazing, who often shared his joy in the writing and imagery of a story, and reminded you that sometimes that joy is reason enough to love a book.

Thankfully, the university also recognized the treasure they had in the English department and rewarded Prof. Hopkins accordingly before he passed on. Sadly, the university will have a hard time finding one who can fill his place and give future students the amazing and exciting education they deserve as lovers of literature. How fortunate I am to have had such a professor.