Back Home Again: Knowledge Is Power

Illustration by Ryan Snook

GIVEN MY APPRECIATION for modest people, I’m embarrassed to admit that several times a day, I catch myself thinking I’m smarter than everyone else. Feelings of superiority are not admirable; it’s just that I see so many people do such stupid things, I can’t help but think I’m smarter than the average bear. Just recently, my wife and I were driving north on I-69 approaching the Fishers exit when three luxury sports cars flew by, weaving through the heavy traffic, obviously racing. A half-mile later, we came upon the three cars smashed to smithereens, having crashed into one another but miraculously no one else. The three young male drivers had exited their ruined vehicles and were screaming at one another. My wife and I crept past them, ogling the wreck.

“This is oddly satisfying,” my wife said.

I had done several foolish things that day but nothing that dumb, and for the rest of the evening, I felt vastly superior.

If you were to ask for demonstratable proof of my intelligence—say, my school grades from my childhood—you would find little evidence of my genius, but that’s because my teachers didn’t fully appreciate my soaring intellect and often dismissed its possibility. Indeed, Mr. Short, my sixth-grade math teacher, once remarked to me that I couldn’t find my butt with both hands and gave me a D on my report card. A lesser student would have found this discouraging, but I soldiered on, determined to prove him wrong—which I did the next semester by not only finding my butt but also by raising my grade to a gentleman’s C. I would have gotten an A but didn’t want to ruin the grading curve for my fellow students. As it turns out, I was not only brilliant, but I was also compassionate.

One can only hide such brilliance for so long without being discovered, and my wisdom became more widely known when I graduated from high school six years later and was hired by the state to pick up roadkill along I-74. Within a few short weeks, I was Indiana’s expert on flattened fauna, able to correctly identify not only the species of roadkill but also the means and timing of its demise through careful study of tire treads, compression, and rigidity. (Groundhog, Marmota monax, 1979 Ford LTD Country Esquire station wagon, 2.5 days ago.) Never one to rest on my laurels, I hit the speech circuit, traveling across the nation to lecture on roadkill removal and proper disposal. (Scoop shovel, incinerator, and recitation of a prayer of St. Francis—the patron saint of animals both dead and alive.)

As is often the case in the caring professions, I burned out after a while and, seeking a new direction in my life, entered the field of general medicine—brain surgery, more specifically—and was the first to discover that when the cingulate gyrus is poked with a finger, the right leg spasms uncontrollably, which led to the eventual mapping of the genome (you’re welcome) and the subsequent discovery of gene therapy (happy to help).

I mention these things so you can better appreciate why I am anticipating my 45th high school reunion next summer, which I have on good authority will be attended by Mr. Short. Being a Christian, I have forgiven him for the most part, but I might point out to him that while he was teaching middle school geometry, I invented a pill that causes one to forget the presidency of Donald Trump. As you can imagine, this has made me wealthier than God Himself, and I’m putting the funds to good use. I will soon be purchasing the internet patent from Al Gore, lock, stock, and barrel, and closing it down so we can return to getting our news from newspapers and magazines and venting our spleens in letters to the editors, like we did in the old days.

With the money left over, I will buy the X-ray glasses that were advertised in the backs of comic books when I was a kid. (“See thru walls! See thru clothes! Amaze your friends! Only $1.00!”) When I mail-ordered a pair in the sixth grade, my mom intercepted the package from the mail and tossed it in the trash before I could test them out. Ever since then, I’ve wondered what I’ve missed and can’t help but think my education suffered because of my mother’s Catholic purity. I might even buy a sports car and race it down the interstate, dodging the road- kill, remembering my humble beginnings.