Sympathy for the Doofus

Occasionally, I feel sorry for strangers. I see something tragic, and my heart goes out to some nameless face in the crowd. And when my heart comes back, it’s got lint and dirt all over it. It sucks.

Anyway, I was at Albertson’s to buy a card for a friend who was graduating from college. You should know that nothing brings me greater delight in this world than giving cards that are not appropriate for the situation — condolence cards when someone has a birthday, graduation cards for an engagement, and so on. I figure, the “appropriate” cards never say what I actually feel (not enough swearing), so I might as well get something that’s completely wrong altogether. The more specific the card is, the better. “To my wife on our 20th anniversary”? Perfect for a friend’s promotion at work. “Wishing you the best in your new apartment”? Great for birthday greetings sent to distant relatives. “On the loss of your cocker spaniel”? Ideal for Easter. I’ve been known to spend a half-hour or more browsing in a Hallmark store, looking for exactly the wrong card.

Anyway, I was at Albertson’s, and it was 11 p.m. on April 15. A man came in, looking very rumpled and disheveled, and asked the clerk whether they had tax forms there.

To this man, my heart went out. I wanted to take him aside, maybe buy him a sandwich, and sit down and talk.

“Sir,” I would say, “are you able to figure out where, exactly, your life went so wrong that 1) you still needed tax forms at 11 p.m. on April 15, and 2) you thought Albertson’s would have them? Please share. Let’s work this out, you and I.”

But, distracted by a card intended for one’s grandfather (!) and written in Spanish (!!), I said nothing. Nothing except, “¡Que bueno!”

Someone else I feel sorry for is Sally Fosse Morikawa of Jamestown, N.D. She wrote a letter that was published in Heloise’s “Helpful Hints” column, which appears six days a week on the Daily Herald comics page. (This is a good place for it, because Heloise looks like “The Little Mermaid’s” Ursula the sea witch.)

Heloise’s column is full of household tips sent in by readers, designed to save time and resources and to make our lives easier and nerdier. I’m looking right now at a column where someone suggests alternate uses for Q-Tips. For example: “Use them to clean crevices in electronic equipment and radios.” No more filthy crevices in your equipment, thanks to Q-Tips!

Anyway, Sally Fosse Morikawa’s letter says, “I have a TV practice that friends admire and appreciate. [I suspect the terms “friends,” “admire” and “appreciate” are all relative.] We all set the VCR for programs we do not expect to be on hand to watch. I do better. I keep it set for my daily favorites, whether I expect to be there or not. [See how much better I am?]

“If I am just getting settled in front of the screen and the doorbell rings, I can quickly switch off the TV and greet my visitor with enthusiasm. [As opposed to greeting them with an axe.] I can always watch the program later…. [Or you could watch it not at all. I’m just sayin’.]

“You can face dozens of minor interruptions with serenity [instead of murderous rage], knowing that your favorite TV programs will be there waiting for you! [No TV = no serenity.]

“All this is a kindness to friends, who no longer must worry about whether or not they are interrupting Sally’s favorite programs!”

And apparently, Sally has about 500 favorite programs, and her basement is littered with the bodies of friends who interrupted her before she got a VCR. Good heavens, woman, how much TV do you watch? If you are getting “DOZENS of minor interruptions” during the day in the form of visitors and phone calls, you are obviously too busy and/or popular to be watching TV.

I feel sorry for Sally Fosse Morikawa, not because she has no life and has to watch TV all day, but because she apparently DOES have a life, and yet STILL watches TV all day. Perhaps I will send her a greeting card that expresses my thoughts: “Wishing you a joyous Rosh Hashanah.”

Columns like this add fuel to the popular belief that I think I'm better than other people. (In truth, I only think I'm better than SOME people.)

This column also hearkens back to the old Daily Universe days, when my columns were much longer and usually contained several tangents, as this one does. I recently found myself reading my first "Snide Remarks" book, and I marveled at how oddly assembled and random those old columns were. Being reminded of that old style probably influenced this column.

Kudos to one of our editors, who pointed out that "¡Que bueno!" needed an upside-down exclamation mark at the beginning. It makes it funnier, I think, because I'm telling you what I said, and how can you SAY an upside-down exclamation mark?

The thing about my fondness for inappropriate cards is 100 percent true. Luscious Malone got a card saying "On the loss of your wife" for her college graduation, and another friend got the Spanish grandfather one. (I can't remember exactly what it said, unfortunately.)