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I was an inquisitive child.

Why?

Exactly.

This isn’t so unusual, I know. Most children are inquisitive and ask questions to learn, usually followed by the infinite asking of “Why?” I’m sure I asked many why questions myself. I remember one incident of loudly asking why I had lines on my hand which resulted in not being taken back to church for years.

I just wanted to know.

But mostly, my questions were prefixed with, “What if?” I can’t remember any of the exact “what if” questions I asked, although I’m sure they were along the lines of “What if the moon crashed,” or “What if I wore my shirts as pants.”

It got so bad, that eventually I was no longer allowed to ask “what if” questions. Cleverly, (I thought), I began instead to start my sentences with the much-similar “suppose”. “Suppose the dog had kittens?” or “Suppose my belly button came undone?”

My inquisitional nature did not just lead to asking questions of questionable veracity. I also took things apart. Literally. One of my earliest memories is of dragging a kitchen chair over to the old thermostat, taking off the cover, and pulling out any of the gears I found inside. I remember doing this more than once.

Oddly, I have no memory of putting the thermostat back together again.

I also remember wondering if the electric heating elements on the stove were hot when they turned red.

Yes, yes they were. I don’t remember the pain but I do remember the blister on my finger. That investigation also required a chair. I’m sure at some point I started asking, “What if I didn’t use a chair? Suppose I’d still get hurt?”

Probably.

I always asked a lot of questions. But once I had the answer I wanted, I frequently refused to change my mind. In first grade, when I was learning to read, I was convinced that ‘frog’ spelled ‘flamingo’. I don’t even know where that came from, but it led to a number of arguments with my classmates, some of whom were possibly smarter than I. Not that I would have believed that.

Even earlier, when in kindergarten, I not only had trouble pronouncing words such as ‘inner tube’ (inneringtube) or ‘living room’ (liverering room), but I was definitely impeded by words with a “grr” sound, such as ‘grill’ (girl). Pronouncing ‘three’ was also especially difficult for me, no matter how helpful my classmates tried to explain it to me. It always came out as ‘tree’. One friend tried to tell me there was an ‘h’ in there. I smugly replied that if there was an ‘h’ (for I could not yet read) then it would be pronounced ‘thee’. And I was fully convinced I was right, evidence to the existence of the sound of the letter ‘r’ notwithstanding.

Eventually, I must have worked it out on my own, probably convinced I had been right all along. Learning to read was a big factor; I found that many of the questions I had could be answered by reading the right things. Like science fiction. I’m not sure what answers I was searching for, but science became an early love of mine. Once again, I was convinced that I knew all there was to know, and what I didn’t know I could discover through experiments.

I conveniently left out the scientific method, of course. But then, how could I have found out that running with a daisy wind decoration wouldn’t let me fly like a plane, or that magnetism couldn’t be destroyed by applying a mixture made up of all the liquids I could find in the bathroom? Or how much trouble I’d get into when I secretly put the mixture back into the shampoo bottle?

Maybe I should have used a chair from the kitchen.

I did learn some interesting things, even if I didn’t really know what they were until later, like when I covered a record with baby powder and then watched fascinated by the way water drops acted when put on top. Or when I learned that dry baking soda doesn’t make a good shampoo. Or that grapefruit omelets are terrible.

(I never said I learned smart things, just interesting things.)

I even went so far as to draw a picture of myself as a scientist when the class was asked to draw pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I even helpfully labelled mine as ‘scientist’ for whatever foolhardy and unknowledgable classmates I might have at the time in the third grade, especially the ones who did not realize that ‘atmosphere’ was obviously pronounced ‘a-possed-teh-meer”.

Even so, I did learn some valuable things along the way, even if it did take awhile. Things like the importance of listening instead of talking, and of only talking when I am absolutely positively sure I am right. And of making sure before hand. And that observation and carefully reproduced results is more educational than slapping together whatever is at hand (like all the chemicals in my chemistry set) just to see what would happen (especially if I added spray deodorant.)

(Answer: a mess.)

And that telling my sixth-grade science teacher that I already knew everything that was in the book was a bad way to start the new year. (I only knew most of what was in the book, it turned out. Or at least thought I did.)

I wonder about the current new generation, and how having instant answers available online will affect them. Maybe they’ll just find new questions to answer. I’m sure they’ll still find a way to aggravate their parents. Who knows what they’ll grow up to be; it’s impossible to predict.

I didn’t grow up to be a scientist, although I still love science and I can take apart and put together a computer with my eyes closed (maybe even a thermostat, but it’s been years since I touched one of those.) I’m not entirely sure what I grew up to be, or even sure at times that I have grown up. But I’m now more likely to use a kitchen chair to sit and listen than I am to get myself in trouble (Unless I serve raisin bran pancakes or grapefruit omelets.)

But my questions remain. And if it wasn’t for my inquisitive nature, I wouldn’t be who I am and who I continue to be. Because two of the most powerful questions that can be asked are “Why?” and “What if?”. I’ve learned a lot with those two questions I never stop asking.

Because the one question I hope to never ask is, “Suppose I stopped searching for answers?”

Not all answers can be found online, you know.

“Pujols! It’s funny!”

By Timothy H Kepple

April 2014

 

Deep down inside, I’m just an average guy.

 

Because deep down inside, the average guy is just an average 12-year-old boy.

 

So the average guy never stops being amused by the same things the average 12-year-old boy thinks is funny. Like things that come from deep down inside.

 

Which is why fart jokes are so popular. With boys, at least.

 

Granted, there are those who neither find fart jokes funny, nor understand why they are funny. (Mostly girls.) Here’s the secret: fart jokes are funny because farts are funny, hands down.

 

One of the greatest joys a young boy discovers is that his body can make funny sounds, like burps. But farts trump burps because not only do they sound funny, they smell bad, too. And make people go “ewwwwww!”

 

(Mostly girls.)

 

Sadly, it’s difficult for most boys to fart on command. Which is why we learn how to make the sound with our hands and our armpits.

 

Of course, people (mostly girls) tend to think that boys will grow out of the fart-is-funny stage. What actually happens, however, is that boys pretend to grow out of it. Yes, most men are still amused by farting. And even moreso, we’re proud of it.

 

Get a group of men together. Depending on how formal the gathering is, eventually, one of the men will finally feel comfortable enough to break the ice by breaking wind. But it’s not just an expression of the man’s comfort level. No ma’am- it is a challenge. Every group of men needs a leader, an alpha male, the one man all the other men respect and will follow.

 

But each group of men can have different alpha males for different things. The man who can fart the loudest, the stinkiest, the most enthusiastically, is definitely an alpha male.

 

An aggressive display of flatulence not only is a means of showing superiority, it’s also a way of building camaraderie and of having fun. For from where else would come the expression, “Having a rip-roaring good time”? The right gut-buster earns a man respect, awe and the occasional high-five from his peers. It almost always earns a good laugh. While we may not enjoy the smell of another man’s fart, we secretly enjoy our own, feeling an astonishingly high sense of pride when we rip a real paint-peeler. Especially if it out-stinks another man’s.

 

This secret tradition of male dominance does not end at the end, however. For there is the bigger matter, the source of all farts and the daddy of all fart jokes as well:

 

Poop.

 

Heck, ‘poop’ itself is a funny word. It sounds funny in the best sense of onomatopoeia. It feels funny when it’s pronounced, and a person looks funny when they say it. There’s a reason why the silly “poop” is rarely said in anger; that’s when we push forth with its stronger, more powerful synonym, which I’ll just leave here as “s*%$#”.

 

Men are fascinated as well as repulsed by poop. We’ll look at it, but we don’t want to touch it. We don’t want to step in it, but we enjoy making it in large quantities. Large, smelly quantities.

 

(In the appropriate place, of course.)

 

Bathroom time is important to men. It is a time for peaceful reflection on our life; a time for pondering the universe; a time to catch up on our reading; a time where we can let our guard down and hopefully not get caught with our pants around our ankles.

 

And it is a time to make the air smell bad.

 

See, one of the goals of manhood young boys strive for is to make the bathroom smell just as badly as their father could. Achieving this is to cross a manly line just as important as the need to shave.

 

It is a challenge, however. There is frequently a process that is followed, one of nearly ritualistic nature. Each man has his own preferred method of undertaking a porcelain download. Some may squat. Some may sit. Some may tuck and some may hold. Some may grunt and some may groan. We each have our own preferred utilization of the provided paper, whether we count out squares or use it by the crumpled fistfull.

 

The end result is always the same. Men take time in the bathroom. We don’t always have too, but it’s just not natural to rush matters.

 

We are accused by some (mostly girls) of taking too much time. But it’s not just because we like to; but because it’s necessary. Men need to reach a certain zen-like state of relaxation to prepare themselves for the coaxing that is sometimes required before the performance is begun. We often start with a building thunderclap crescendo before delivering the bulk of the performance, the very fiber, so to speak, until ending with an even larger boom in a grand finale. Even T. S. Eliot realized that sometimes, things do end with a bang. Why else would he name his poem ‘The Hollow Men’?

 

Many times, when we think the show is over, we’re even called back for an encore.

 

Using the bathroom is not just about the satisfaction of making a boomer; it’s about making a statement: I am a man, and I was here! Look at that paint peel!

 

Not everyone understands this.

 

(Mostly girls)

 

Mostly … but not all girls. I once had a female boss who found fart and poop jokes just as funny as your average man. In fact, I can easily pinpoint just when it was that I knew I wouldn’t have trouble working with her; the day she told me about baseball player Albert Pujols. She didn’t tell me about how good or bad of a player he is (not that I’d understand that anyway.) No, she told me about his name, and more importantly, how it is pronounced. She said, “It’s pronounced ‘poo holes’! It’s funny!” We got along great from then on, secretly and not so secretly making fart jokes.

 

Poo holes. It is funny.

 

Rip-roaringly funny.

 

Just like April Fools Day.