Pop Quiz: Four Anecdotes



On the highway you’re cut off by a very slow moving Buick. It’s really annoying – you need to get to the store and back before FRONTLINE comes on. What’s annoying about the incident is the slowness by which the cut off occurs. It isn’t a life-threatening cut off; it’s more like a long, drawn out cut off in which the Buick, which is going about half your speed, switches into your lane, and when you make the move to pass in the next lane over, the Buick blocks you by making the same move – only slower. You end up having to switch back to your original lane to make the pass, and by now you’re feeling pretty bitchy. As you pass, you set up your face to give the driver the iciest of glares, and when the driver – who, predictably, turns out to be a very old man wearing a fedora – is in eyesight, you execute the facial expression and throw your hand up in disgust as he glances in your direction. You both look away.

At the store your mission is simply to get a pint of ice cream – probably mint chocolate chip – because experience has shown that it is good to watch FRONTLINE eating from a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. As you approach the register with the pint of ice cream in hand, you see that there is an old woman, apparently confused as to whether she’s ready to check out or not. You slow your pace and watch her as you continue to approach, waiting for her to make her move. “Checking out or not, granny?” you think, somewhat maliciously, but then your conscience reminds you that she’s just a little old lady, and you smile and begin to feel endeared toward her. You stop and wait. She looks at you and apologizes with her gentle eyes, then moves along.


“Why can’t we just have a reasonable discussion about this?” your girlfriend says. “Why can’t you talk about this without getting completely upset and losing your shit?”

“What? Losing my shit? Fuck you. I’m not losing my shit. We can’t have a reasonable discussion about this because you keep insulting me. Stop making me feel fucking bad for this, this isn’t my problem. I refuse to talk to you about this. I can’t do anything about it! I won’t talk about this with you,” you respond, bitterly.

The two of you are in bed, and tonight has been bad. She brought up the fact that she hasn’t been having orgasms lately, and that, you know, she’d like to fix that, and you, well… you couldn’t really handle it, so you got really upset and basically ruined the night for the both of you. After the mutual realization that there’s basically nothing that can be done to salvage the mood, someone turns off the light. As you lay there listening to her breathing, you’re pretty mad at yourself.

The next day, at lunch with your coworker, you’re in the middle of a well thought-out, sufficiently-evidenced diatribe about another coworker. You find this coworker to be an entirely frustrating entity, and this is because he isn’t direct, clear, and straightforward. He never explains the moves he makes, and you think that he never explains himself because he has some sort of plan that he’s not letting anyone in on. Having a plan is OK by you – business strategy is good, planning is good – you just wish this coworker would be open and clear about it. And this is what you’re saying to your coworker over your bowl of pho.


It is the weekend, and so you have gotten yourself into a gratifying, comfortable tunnel of blog articles that reach the span of what is to you the entire blogosphere. You enjoy slipping into this sort of trance wherein you consume snarky content about art, politics, the world. It feels pretty good, but every so often, as is the case with life, you come across something you don’t like. And unfortunately, you’re currently looking at an article that is just, well, out of line. The fact is that it is sort of egregiously misogynist and the author is like, embarrassingly unaware. The article really grates on you, and one of the biggest problems about the whole thing is that there are commenters actually congratulating the author for it. There are a lot of people that actually like this. They must not see what you see, you think, and so you start writing. “This article is actually a misogynist manifesto, and it’s not worth anyone’s time. I can’t believe this dude calls himself a writer. It’s basically, well – what’s that called? Oh yeah. Bullshit. This article is bullsh—“

You’re interrupted by a loud scream. You look up from your laptop, your face the picture of a stern parent. “Daddy, Ryan’s being mean… Ryan called me a shit head,” your 6-year-old daughter yells from the living room. You shake your head and stand up. “Ryan,” you say, your voice now an intimidating baritone. Ryan, who’s 8 years old, and who learned “shit head” from you don’t know who, doesn’t answer. “Ryan” you say again. You walk into the living room. He is looking at his shoes. “Ryan, come here,” you say. He comes to you; you crouch to his level. “Listen to me,” you say, your face gentle and understanding. “We don’t use that word in our house, and we don’t call people names, either. Do you understand?”


At the bar, Lady Gaga has become the focus of conversation. “No, I think she’s really good,” your friend says. “She’s redefining pop music in an intelligent and socially conscious way. I don’t know how you can legitimately hold that she’s ‘hurting’ pop music. Hell, everybody but Lady Gaga is hurting pop music. Pop music needs Lady Gaga to be anywhere close to artistically redeeming, or redeemed, or whatever.”

“No,” you say, taking a sip of your beer. “Lady Gaga fucking sucks. Her music is no different than any of the music that came before her; the only thing different is that she’s taken post-modernity to a super extreme. She’s a dumbass. She’s a puppet; like, a total puppet for the media executives at whatever record label. I mean, at least her gimmick could be more interesting – but it’s not. She just wears zany clothes. That’s like the only thing she does. I’m really tired of people thinking Lady Gaga is something special.”

The conversation moves on, and you continue to drink beer with your good friend. Toward the end of the night, she asks if you want to see her friend play a show at a house party two weekends from now. She explains that her friend’s music is really good and interesting and goes on about it for quite some time indeed. You actually remember seeing her friend play, once, and hearing someone else talk about it positively, too. “Oh yeah,” you say. “Yeah, she’s alright, I thought she was pretty good.” Your voice sort of fades. “Sure, that sounds good, I’m down.” Secretly, of course, you think her music is terrible.

Question: Which anecdote doesn’t belong? Explain.

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