Janice M Cauwels, PhD


A published narrative appears on the Feature/Culture page.

Questions About Absurdities

April 8, 2015

Tags: Questions, Absurdities

• How is it that high school students are old enough to have sex but not old enough to cross a street without a guard present to stop traffic?

• Why do people prepare for blizzards by storming (!) grocery stores to buy the ingredients for French toast?

• For that matter, who started this extremely bad habit of storms' colliding to become superstorms?

• Deep down, whom does everyone really love most--Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, or Johnny Depp?

• Why is it that as men age, they can’t start to pee, and as women age, they can’t stop starting?

• And after they do . . . if hand washing is so crucially important, why do rest room faucets spit only the briefest of sprays?

• When will people recognize the purpose of opaque plastic bottles and tubes: to seem empty while still containing up to a few weeks' supply of the paste or cream?

• Which is more satisfying, the gurgle coming from a clogged toilet that finally flushes completely, or the sight of messages flooding your Inbox when the phone tech corrects the e-mail glitch?

• Its arrival means that our lives have been shortened by a year, so why do people celebrate on New Year's Eve?

• And must the date by preceded by unending recaps of the preceding year (or decade) as though we didn't already know what happened?

• Why is the Forgot your password? link always close enough to the password window to be clicked easily by mistake?

• For that matter, why are USB slots closer than peripheral plugs and flash drives are thick?

• Why isn't hair as determined to grow on our heads as it is under our arms?

• And why is it that if you ask two hairdressers the same question about hair (or for that matter, two voice teachers the same question about voice), their answers will completely contradict one another?

• Why is the page "intentionally left blank" and described as such even though that statement appears on it?

• When will it become clear to everyone that summer has arrived only when the inner labels on women's tops first appear sticking up on their necks?

• Why do guys wear shorts outside in single-digit temperatures?

• If the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior in hope of a different result, why isn’t persistence insane?

• Why do people keep saying that stress harms your immune system when all this reminder does is increase your stress?

• Who decided that e-mail should begin with "Hi," and why?

• And more recently, who decided that answers to questions asked in televised interviews should begin with "So"?

• Why do I fear that texting abbreviations will regress our spoken language back to grunts and other utterances?

• And how ironic is it that everyone texts obsessively, considering that the Internet was originally text that was converted into the World Wide Web only to give the public a graphic interface?

• Why hasn’t it occurred to sugar manufacturers to enlarge their individual packets to match the popular takeout coffee cups?

• Who has voiced more commercials of late, Richard Thomas or Jeff Bridges, and precisely how happy are we all that the latter won an Academy Award?

• Why are zinc lozenges flavored with citrus that irritates the throat even more than a virus does?

• How long will it take most people to recognize that going green and being frugal are more than just new fads?

• Standard keyboards all have dollar signs, so why don't they have cents signs?

• Which young woman got all the others to pronounce "thank" as "think," and why does she prefer to say "Think you"?

• When will fire departments recognize that if any driver ever “kept back 300 feet,” s/he would not be able to read that warning?

• Why do thong liners exist, considering that any woman whose situation requires a panty liner has no business wearing a thong to begin with?

• Continuing with underwear, why are socks eaten by washing machines while panties fall on the dirty laundry room floor instead of the other way around?

• What is it about being on the phone with tech support--even when the conversation is going really well--that makes callers literally sweat?

• How do manufacturers find out which product you really like so that they can discontinue that particular one?

• Why do fish lovers always wait until you arrive at a fish restaurant to ask whether you like fish?

• Why does nothing that is supposed to be pumpkin-flavored taste like it?

• Once removed, which is most likely to skitter or float out of sight: used staples, punched-out three-ring paper holes, or plastic ties attaching clothing tags?

• If mergers and acquisitions eventually leave us with only three institutions--Bank of America, the Catholic Church, and Disney--will people be withdrawing money to buy tickets to Disneyworld Vatican?

• And now that the Catholic Church has resurrected indulgences, how long will it be before Rod Blagoy-oy-oy starts trying to sell them?

• Which is worse, voicemail that says "Your call is important to us" before keeping callers on interminable hold or tech support e-mail that begins "I understand your concern and will be happy to help" followed by irrelevant boilerplate responses?

• Why do British singers speak with British accents but sing in standard American?

• When will Mother Nature notice that we walk upright and should long since have evolved less sensitive toes?

• Speaking of feet, why do women think that it’s crucial to wear fashionable shoes?

• And speaking of evolution, how soon after the invention of the telephone did men evolve the Don't Call Her gene, which is coded into the Y chromosome?

• For that matter, how long will it be before babies arrive with computer literacy pre-installed?

• And when will women start to recognize that menopause is no more “natural” than the hormones prescribed for it? (The reason appears in my New York Times letter to the Science section, which always uses titles with the names of PhDs.)

• Continuing in this vein, when talking to little kids, why do parents refer to themselves in the third person?

• And what if kids replied, “No, mommy—it’s not 'okay'”?

• Or, "No, mommy— I won't 'excuse' you"?

• Whatever happened to wall-mounted tile cup/toothbrush and soap holders?

• Why doesn't each multibillionaire set up a biomedical research institute, patent the cure for cancer, Alzheimer's, or whatever, and earn billions all over again while doing incalculable good?

• With respect to treatments, why do pharmacies always use so many staples to attach receipts and documents to bags of prescription medication?

• As for diseases, if a ghost produces the recurrent odor of cigarette smoke, does inhaling it cause lung cancer?

• If the government already knows what percentage of the population hasn't returned census forms, why does it need to count us all in the first place?

• Why do ladders have top steps if nobody is ever supposed to stand on them?

• How long will it take the nutrition police to close down productions of "The Nutcracker" because the second act takes place in the Land of Sweets?

• Speaking of sweet foods, why do prunes need to be refrigerated after opening even though raisins do not?

• And speaking of unhealthy foods, why eat at Whole Foods if most of your meal will consist of cooked bacon and macaroni with cheese?

• When will cable/phone/Internet providers figure out how to transmit signals through tree roots?

• If less sitting and more sleeping both help extend life, do we have to learn to sleep standing up?

• Why do the courts think that people for whom jury duty is a personal or financial hardship can respond to such stressful coercion with carefully considered impartial judgment?

• Upon entering the Port Authority, why does any bus driver ever bother to announce, “New York City”?

• When will audiences figure out that applauding every joke told by a comedian simply wastes time that could be spent listening to a greater number of jokes?

• Why does AT&T not mind that the music in its tracking solution commercial about Genco Services is from the ZZ Top hit "La Grange," which describes the Chicken Ranch brothel?

• What is it about the produce aisle that brings out the intrusive rudeness in grocery store customers and the defensive aggression in store clerks (especially around the grapes)?

• Why do produce clerks think that apples and pears are indestructible objects that can be banged around with impunity?

• Why are certain produce hybrids named pluots instead of plucots or pluicots or plumicots or for that matter, aprilums?

• What's the rush?

• And if people are in such a hurry, why do they sit staring at their smartphones after traffic lights have turned green?

• Why don't hours of nonstop barking give a dog laryngitis?

• When will homeowners figure out that the most energy-efficient windows are not the expensive thermal ones but plain old-fashioned storms?

• Why is it okay for Indians but not Americans to telecommute to jobs in America? (See also my letter to the New York Times.)

• Also with respect to jobs, if employers really want to evaluate candidates accurately, why do they make them contort their credentials into ridiculous glitch-ridden online forms?

• Why is it okay for leaf blowers to spew stinking exhaust while piling up leaves to be picked up by idling trucks, also spewing stinking exhaust, when it's no longer okay to get rid of leaves by burning them because that produces fragrant smoke?

• How much longer will it take someone to make an action film in which a crane swats a helicopter?

• What makes Chase, Citigroup, American Express and other companies think that increasing interest rates on their credit card balances will decrease the chances that customers will run out of money and default?

• Why can't people just enjoy their relationships rather than struggle to define and categorize them so as to establish conduct rules?

• Who has the more enviably athletic body, Sarah Jessica Parker or Holly Hunter?

• Why can’t we design shopping cart wheels that simply work?

• How many news outlets actually recognize that traffic reports only move the jams from place to place?

• Why are so many headlights in this traffic now designed to look like the offspring of an ellipsis and a smiley face?

• And when did everyone forget that their cars have defrosters that make snow and ice slide right off?

• When will it occur to manufacturers that people take medications to relieve discomfort, which is only aggravated by a struggle to open blister packs?

• Why does breakfast rather than dinner traditionally consist of soporific foods?

• Given that these media express alarming self-absorption (including, of course, my own), why does anyone read anyone else’s blogs, tweets, text messages, comments, and the like?

Copyright © 2008-2015 by Janice M. Cauwels, Ph.D. All rights reserved.


  1. February 21, 2010 7:56 PM EST
    Why can't CRACK the SKY be the halftime act at the SUPERBOWL?
    - David
  2. June 25, 2010 11:33 AM EDT
    Well . . . imagine if one of those guys had an accidental wardrobe malfunction . . . .
    - Janice Cauwels