The Grumpy Owl Guide to Enduring the Astounding Idiocy of Your Fellow Humans

If my news from alternate timelines is any indication, it sounds like there is now, in North America, a thing I’ve heard a few people call “spiraling.” By spiraling, they mean getting up into each other’s business, issuing noise complaints, taking snapshots of bad behavior, and, generally, fixating on various things – especially the various forms of human stupidity. Minor irritations become septic psychic wounds. You know, that sort of thing. The use of this “spiral” word cannot be a good development. “Spiraling” is what toilet water does as its being flushed. And that stuff is usually full of terrible things. So, assuming most people don’t want to be toilet water, let alone whatever may be floating in it, this word “spiraling” does not exactly portend an ideal situation.

Before we get going, I should mention I find the North American situation increasingly alien and unrelatable. This shit is hard enough. I can’t imagine how much more stressful the situation can be when it’s paired with an inept or malicious government response — particularly if you’re the direct target of that ineptitude or malice. Must be fucking awful. So it kinda goes without saying, I hope, that you know your shit better than I do, and I send my love. Love is very cheap to send. Here, have some more. (Types heart symbol into computer.)

But while that is alien to me, I have spent a great deal of my life working in various service industries. While doing so I have dealt with a great deal of moronic behavior from the public and have, more or less and with many notable exceptions, managed to keep myself pretty steady and to avoid “spiraling.” More or less. A few notable exceptions. Some of these exceptions may have lasted for years. Pobody’s nerfect! But I don’t think I’d be bragging too much if I said I was generally considered a pretty calm and stable person by most people I’ve encountered lately. Shows what they know, I guess.

It’s not natural. It’s not demeanor or temperament. I wasn’t born calm. As a matter of fact, I am told that there was some screaming involved in my birth. Now, most of this screaming was from the virgin sacrifice and the doctor who threw himself through the window, but I, myself, was hardly the picture of calm. I set three nurses alight and poked my grandfather in the eye before The Talking Black Dog told me where I was and I grew accustomed to this human stink of this noxious realm. Whatever serenity I may now have is a result of practice and long experience in trying to deal with unavoidable bozos.

Some of this experience and the lessons learned may be of some value. So, with the usual advice of, you should really stop reading this now and actually seek out someone who might actually be qualified to give some sort of advice, I give you The Grumpy Owl Guide to Enduring the Astounding Idiocy of Your Fellow Humans.

We will start with a prayer.

Satan, grant me the courage to cast into the void the bozos I cannot change, the endurance to help the bozos I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Now, let’s get to it.

People Are Bozos

An ancient photograph of famous Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

Not exactly news, is it?

Some time around the year 170 (not missing a 9, though even fifty years should be plenty long enough to get used to an idea) the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius says in his notes to himself: “Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial.” That’s how he advised himself to start his day. That shit wasn’t for a day gone wrong, that was his best advice to himself every day.

It’s your high expectations that will really fuck you in the end.

So take a deep breath and get ready to deal with snitches, gossips, scumbags, dip-shits, jerks, and jerk-offs. No way around it. They’re there. They’re what a day is made of.

You might think you can avoid this. But, if anyone had a choice about the people they had to deal with and who they could avoid, it might have been the fucking Emperor of Rome. I mean, this guy wasn’t exactly working a line to the toilet in LA. He had some control over who he bumped into and who he would never have to bump into again. Yet, idiots still abounded. Every single day, there were still idiots. And every day, he had to brace himself again.

Wake up and brace yourself, motherfucker. People can be a real bunch of jackasses.

Accepting this makes it a bit easier to deal with them. At the very least, you won’t be ambushed by stupidity. All your surprises will happy ones. You’ll just have fewer of them.

Much fewer.

Let the Bozo Find You

One thing that even the Emperor of Rome didn’t have to deal with was 24/7 news or The Internet. If he wanted to read the thoughts of some jackass on the other side of the planet, he’d have to look around for that jackass. He’d have to make an effort. Like, he’d have to wave his hand or tap his scepter or something. He’d make the bozo appear. Someone like me wouldn’t just wander across his field of vision spouting my nonsense. He’d have to summon up someone to summon up my sort of bullshit. Yet, apparently, he still had a pretty solid supply of the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. He didn’t have to travel around the world seeking them out. They were just there.

Whatever happens to the supply chains, you are guaranteed an ample daily supply of stupid. Stupid and cruel will never go on ration. These will be the last thing the last humans have and, even then, they’ll have much too much of both.

You don’t have to invite stupid into your home. Even if you’re alone, you can find stupid without turning on a screen. Just look back at your life or maybe even the last five minutes of it. Your memory will contain plenty of stupidity, pettiness, and overall bad-intentions. They’re right there and they’re there all the time! And finding bozo in yourself, with the object of changing this one bozo, might even be mildly productive of one slightly better human being.

But it won’t be fun. It’s one of the great cruelties of life that trying to be less of a bozo is not met with happiness but with increasing doses of regret. You can measure your progress with remorse. You get a little better and feel a lot worse. You can see why people avoid mirrors. These people have a lot of sense, if you think about it. Mirrors are haunted.

But laying in bed, staring at the mirror on your ceiling, and listening to the noise of guilt chewing you alive is still much more productive than seeking out your stupidest neighbors and concerning yourself with their activities. I mean, it’s probably more productive. One hopes. At the very least, after mulling over that idiotic thing you said sixteen years ago, you might possibly –with a great deal of effort– be able to finally do something about yourself and avoid repeating some of the past’s most outrageous and obvious stupidities. You might even be able to find new stupidities and, if you’re lucky, you’ll keep learning and improving so that all this stuff that feels so right today will tomorrow appear horrible and torment you well into your dotage until your mind is finally totally overrun with these regrets and you die alone, in the throes of hallucinatory remorse, swearing at the only people left — stranger who have to be paid enough to change your bedding and the reflection on the ceiling. Then again, maybe none of this will help at all. No one is expecting miracles. POBODY’S NERFECT!!!! And what was I saying?

Oh yeah, try to limit your exposure to stupidity,

You just don’t need to look for stupid. Since this started, I’ve watched about five minutes of that talking bag of orange piss on TV talk. That was too much. It was more than enough to make me feel like I was losing my goddamn mind. Just hearing his voice makes me an even worse person than I already am. So I don’t watch that nonsense.

Now, I’m not saying that you should retreat into some fairy tale where ignorance is bliss, everything is great, kumbaya, all praise the power of positive thinking, and all of that happy horseshit. I’m just saying, if you’ve identified an external source of stupidity and cruelty and you don’t need to constantly expose yourself to it then you just don’t need to constantly expose yourself to it. On some things and about some people, you’ve made up your mind. Have a little fucking faith in your good judgement. If there’s some big change and it matters, you’ll hear about it. There’s no avoiding that sort of news. Even if you don’t hear about it, it will find a way to make itself know. And good news isn’t the only thing you can’t avoid.

You Can’t Avoid Stupid

So that leaves us with the stupidities we cannot avoid. Plenty of those clowns. More than enough.

Now, after Marcus Aurelius tells us to wake up brace ourselves for meeting with busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial, he goes on to give some advice on how to deal with this nonsense. (If you want to read that word for word, maybe pick up a copy of the book, instead of making me type out the whole thing.) Basically, the advice is recognize that you share a common humanity with these dingle-berries and that you were made for cooperation and getting vexed by idiots is a lot of things but it isn’t cooperation.

That seems like pretty decent advice. Of course, there’s some things we should never cooperate with and plenty of things we should be pretty vexed about, but all in all, it seems like pretty good advice. And like all good advice, easier said than done.

So how to do it?

SMILE!

No, don’t ever smile. Mouths are disgusting. Have you seen the suicide rates for dentists?And, for the love of Satan, never tell anyone else to smile, you fucking monster.

For starters, what happens on someone’s face is none of your fucking business. You’re not some sort of facial expression police. The other reason, probably more important here is

You Don’t Know Shit!

I remember serving tables right after getting the news that my dear old Nan had died and some customer telling me to smile. I think we’ve all been in some situation like that. And, when it happens to us, it’s pretty easy to think – these bozos don’t know shit.

But, dear friend, I have some bad news. You don’t know shit either. You too are bozo. I am also bozo. We are all bozo. Bozo rules the day. Bozo stalks the street by night.

We’re deep into the Reign of Bozo and you will see people doing some real bozo shit. Honking their nose or putting too many clowns in a car. You will see bozos acting badly. Bozos kicking people in the behind with their giant shoes and bozos wasting multicolored handkerchiefs. And you might make that sort of very human error of assuming that below it all, under all the clown makeup, we’re really all the same bozo, and that all bozos probably feel like you –a perfectly respectable bozo, of course– feels and that these people are going through the same sort of bozo struggle as you are. But we’re nothing alike under the clown makeup. You don’t know shit about why that bozo is doing this annoying thing. You honestly have no idea. Fucking none. Zero.

(Sad sign of the times, I should probably point out that a bozo nose and a swastika are a little different. With a bozo nose, you know nothing, with a swastika, you know more than enough. So temper this tolerance shit with some common sense. Fuck Facists.)

When it comes to your regular bozo shit, you don’t know why a person is walking their dog, going for a jog, or even outside at a time like this. You do not know why they are acting like terrible human beings. You just do not fucking know. For all you know, they’re doing a really good thing. Maybe they’re looking after a dog for someone who can’t, maybe that jogger is running to a Nazi’s house to punch them in the mouth, and maybe that person is outside because it’s their only ten minutes a day away from an unfathomably abusive situation. That person might be cranky and it might look like they’re outside to get something that doesn’t seem essential and this might be because they’re caring for a dying person and they just really fucking need an ice-cream. This shit happens. You don’t know. You just don’t.

Even in the cases where you think you know you need to still

Act Like You Don’t Know

When you don’t know, you have to do a really terrible thing. You have to be a bit fucking charitable with your judgments. Just hope other people are as charitable with you. Because this whole thing is not going to end any time soon and the only way through this mess is with trust and some charity of spirit. You simply do not have the energy to spend any worrying about the bozo or to worry that the bozo is worrying about you. You will need that bozo’s charity too and maybe you have, already, without even knowing, received a lot of it.

POBODY IS NERFECT! PODODY!

And, a lot of times fights result because of miscommunication. You add an idiot, a jerk, or just a bad mood to miscommunication and you often get a fight. Many of these are because someone doesn’t appreciate someone else’s situation. On the floor, I’d often get people make some ridiculous request as a joke. Thing is, what seems absurd to them is maybe a request that I’d received in seriousness or one that isn’t even ridiculous. Maybe, the first time I heard it, I laughed, thinking that the person was joking and they really weren’t. Awkward.

It’s a miscommunication and it can blow up. Aside from playing dumb, the only way to navigate that shit is by not taking it too personal. Just try to make the charitable assumption — a person is only trying to do what they think is best and sometimes it’s not being communicated in the clearest ways. Sometimes, words are used that induce a reflex in your and sometimes you use words that induce one in someone else. But stress abounds and tempers are short. Even among decent people, people can be short. So you’ve got to try to be charitable in listening and considerate when speaking. You’ll be wrong sometimes. And sometimes, even worse, you’ll be right. But you have to try. And have some forgiveness.

And sometimes you just need to give up.

Summary

Would you just look at the bozo? What is he even doing outside? Who does he think he is? Pobody? Well, he’s not Pobody. He’s me and me is from nerfect. Me is bozo.

And you is bozo too. We all have to deal with fucking bozos. But we don’t have to deal with all of them all the time. There’s too many bozos and too much time.

This thing is going to go on for a very long time and it’s going to be very hard and we must learn to be both strict with and forgiving of ourselves. Even without bozos, this is all going to be very fucking hard. With bozos, it’s going to be much harder.

But there’s no getting away from bozo. The world is made of bozos. That’s not going to change. The only thing you can really do is try really hard to be considerate towards your fellow bozos, trust that they know their bozo business better than you do, and hope they extend that same trust towards you, you bozo. When all else fails, experiment with minding your own fucking business for a change. And when you fail at even that much, don’t be too hard on yourself or on the other bozos that proved incapable of even that much. We are all bozo. We still need to get along and get through this. There’s no one else. Just Bozo.

It’s bozo all the way down.

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