I’m experiencing an ethical dilemma. It’s a sensation altogether new to me. It sort of tingles.
What happened is, I saw a really funny sign that would be perfect to discuss in this column. It’s at the entrance to a parking lot, where you take your ticket so they know how much to charge you when you leave. On the machine that coughs up the tickets, there’s a handwritten sign that says:
“Tickets are dirty! Do not put in your mouth!!! We don’t want to handle your SPIT!!”
So here’s my dilemma: The parking lot in question is at UVSC. Consequently, it would be easy to make jokes about the sort of people who go to UVSC, who apparently have to be told not to put foreign objects in their mouths. It would be even easier to take the next logical step, which is to assume UVSC also has a class called What Not to Put in Your Mouth 101, and perhaps also one called Don’t Touch That 401 (it’s an upper-division course).
But Utah Valley Special College is an easy target, and one I’ve taken aim at frequently. I would like to think I’m above going for the easy jokes, and that I would use this forum instead to foster intelligent discussion of important issues.
I would LIKE to think that. Unfortunately, the empirical data makes it difficult to convince myself of it.
But how can I resist when, while visiting UVSC recently on official business, I encountered so much entertainment in an edition of the school paper, The College Times? Here is an opinion piece entitled, “What is it to be American?” It begins this way:
“‘I’m proud to be an American…’ Whenever that song comes on the radio, I’ll admit I sing along but a part of my body starts to convulse and dry heave.”
I wonder which part of the body that would be. The stomach, maybe? Later, the author describes his peers’ reaction to his participation in an on-campus peace rally. “They thought it was funny and a little exocentric,” he writes.
Now, I know how sometimes when I’m talking I accidentally combine words. Here, apparently, the author was trying to say both “eccentric” and “exoskeleton” at the same time. I don’t know why he was trying to do that, but apparently he was.
Elsewhere, he observes that there is more to being patriotic than carrying flags and posting bumper stickers. “Is this American? For some yes, but in a non-delusional world, there is more to being American. This is a parodic.”
To say something is “a parodic” is a ridiculous.
And then there’s the reason I was at UVSC in the first place, which was to attend a poetry reading at which a friend was a featured participant. I attended to support him, despite my earnest belief that most poetry is pretentious crap. I also attended despite knowing that after his bit was through, there would be an open mic, meaning anyone who fancied himself a bard could stand up and force his musings upon us, in defiance of the Geneva Convention, which allows for impromptu, unsupervised poetry-reading only against the enemy and during times of war.
Sure enough, the open-mic stuff was awful, just dreadful stuff. Thousands were killed. One of the poets, I’m fairly sure, was just reading a list of random words he had jotted down on a scrap of paper. He definitely had a couplet in which the rhyme was “you” and “poo,” which I’m sure I don’t have to point out is a complete rip-off of Robert Frost. (“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/I was on my way to you/Undecided, a while I stood/And then I saw some badger poo.”)
Again, if I were taking the easy way out, I would lay the blame for the bad poetry at UVSC’s feet. I would say I’m surprised none of the readers plagiarized things they read on Hallmark cards. I would say UVSC offers a course in poetry, but that the textbook is a volume of dirty limericks. I would say the most amazing thing about the poetry reading at UVSC was that it involved reading.
But these are easy jokes. I want to be better than that. You see my dilemma, I’m sure. Now please, if you don’t mind, take this column out of your mouth.
In print, the open-mic poet rhymed the words "you" and "Pooh," and then the Robert Frost poem ended "My favorite bear is Winnie-the-Pooh." In family newspapers, you can't say things like "poo," although I did say "crap" a paragraph earlier. I guess I didn't mean that literally, though.