Category Archives: Rampant Idealism

Revenge of the Nerds: the Next Generation

So I’ve been keeping up to date on this whole “CSU wants to build a new football stadium on campus even though they already have one a few miles off campus” ordeal. For everyone not up to speed on the matter, read the previous sentence.  Now that everyone is caught up, one of the proposals is to tear down two of the freshman dormitories to make space for this new structure.

Of course everyone who watches half as many 1980’s B movies as I do knows exactly where I’m going with this:  THIS IS THE EXACT SAME PLOT AS THE MOVIE “REVENGE OF THE NERDS!”

Anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, go watch it on Netflix.  Now that everyone is caught up, how cool is that analogy?  The football coach is played by the football coach (played wonderfully by a young and slimmer John Goodman), the President of CSU is played by the dean of Adams State College.  I’m not sure who the nerds are going to be, but they will be walking up to their dorm only to see it blown up (for dramatic effect only– I don’t think dynamite would be the appropriate tool for the job) and John Goodman standing on top of a bobcat with a mega-phone telling all the new students to report to the gymnasium for their temporary housing.

Having no other choice, the nerds will band together and fight the new stadium constructions like most conflicts in life– in a college carnival setting.  The nerds will eventually come out the winners. Lewis, the head nerd, will have sex with the hot head cheerleader (although he did the deed while pretending to be her boyfriend– I’m pretty sure that could be considered rape.)  Gilbert will find work as a emergency room doctor until he dies of a brain tumor at the end of season seven on ER.  As for the rest of the group, I think one of them was on an episode of Star Trek as an alien or something.

So just remember– don’t underestimate the nerds.

Dish it up!

Dear Dish Network,

As one of your faithful customers for the past five years, I thought I would take a few minutes and tell you how to run your business. I do watch a moderate amount of television, and therefore I feel qualified to give advice to a multi-billion dollar high-tech communications company.

First of all, you need to slowly move to an “a la carte” business model.  I would love to purchase the History International channel, but it is only available with a package that is two tiers above where I am at right now (which is an extra $30 a month).  It isn’t fair to me or the channels that I would really like to support financially.  And those 7 ESPN channels– well you can keep those.  I don’t have anything against sports programming, but I never watch them.  Same goes for all of the Spanish Channels.  No hablo Español.  Please credit my account.  I just want to be able to choose the channels I want and not be forced to pay for channels I never use.  Is that asking too much?  To start the conversion, you need to start rewarding quality programming by offering bonuses for the most recorded and viewed programming.  Eventually allow customers to customize exactly which channels they want.

As a side note on the “a la carte” issue, you should have a dedicated channel that gives previews of other channels for a week at a time.  Every now and then I hear about a “free Cinemax” weekend, but I forget to go into the channel selection, add Cinemax, and see if there is anything I want to watch.  If there was a channel that offered a week of FX, and then a week of HBO, and so on, I would keep it on my list of channels and be more likely to preview these channels.  A new channel to try out every week of the year!

I’ve got a kiddo on the way, and I would really like to see a better way to control what they watch.  How about letting customers set up “playlists” online that everyone can see and add to their DVRs?  Customers could then pick specific programs for their children, or supplement their choices for other people’s playlists that highlight age appropriate programming.  Netflix has a somewhat similar system for sharing information.  When the DVR is turned on a password would be required to see different playlists or live programming.  I know, it sounds complicated, but you guys can do it.  You got all those satellites into space– that couldn’t have been easy.  And remember– if you don’t do it someone else will on the Internet and bypass your network all together.

Let’s see– what else has been bugging my lately?  Oh yeah– I love my DVR and being able to record shows, but why not make it easier by taking note of what shows are being watched, and then just automatically start recording them in the future?  Kind of what Tivo has done with their recommendations, but this would be recording the shows that are otherwise getting watched on live tv.

Finally, can you make an option for listing channels sorted by popularity?  I watch about 5 channels 90% of the time– it would be nice to see all those on the top of the list followed by the less frequented channels.  You shouldn’t have too much trouble with that request.

That’s it– so if you end up using my ideas feel free to compensate me with a gift fruit basket, a singing telegram, or, if you can’t think of anything else– free cable is always an option!

Omar Lutfey

Traffic Jams

Very few things in life test the strength of a family bond quite like getting stuck in a traffic jam with a sibling on route to the airport. The situation becomes even more intense when their plan centers around flying to Vegas and hooking up with a significant other for New Year’s Eve. I had plenty of time to realize this fact while sitting in my car with my sister the on the twenty-sixth of December.

In general I-25 does an adequate job of moving north and south bound traffic through the Denver metro area. Sometimes, however, the large eighteen wheeled trucks can really slow things down. Especially when they are positioned perpendicular to the normal flow of traffic. Being tipped over doesn’t seem to improve the situation much either.

Often times brother and sister do not require words to communicate thoughts and emotions to one another. I didn’t even have to turn my head to sense my sister thinking “I told you we should have taken E-470 to the airport, but you were too cheap to pay the three seventy five toll charge.” Of course I was busy thinking “Hello! How was I supposed to know a truck was going to tip over on I-25? Do I look like Miss Cleo?”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Omar does not bear any resemblance to this black female Jamaican television psychic. Their voices, however, are remarkably similar.]

After about 10 minutes of barely creeping forward it became fairly obvious that no cars were getting past the accident. Eventually several police and fire trucks drove up along the shoulder and arrived at the accident site. Which was a good thing in most respects because their purpose is to clear up the situation and get traffic moving.

Some of the cars on the right hand side of the road came up with the idea that if the emergency equipment could make significant forward progress on the shoulder, they could too. Most drivers will do anything to safely get out of the way of a ten thousand pound fire truck with flashing lights and an eardrum splitting siren. The same respect is not given to beige late model Honda Accords.

Being in the middle of three lanes, we watched as the Accord drove on the shoulder and passed three cars before its driver realized the futility of this course. As the Accord tried to merge back into the right hand lane, nobody would let him get back off the shoulder. Eventually the guy in the Accord and guy in the car who wouldn’t let him in both laid on their horns as they inched closer towards one another. The fact that everyone was traveling, on average, zero miles an hour seemed to be lost on both of them. If massive tragedies in the world tend to bring out the best qualities in our society, minor traffic jams must be the audition stage for purgatory.

At that moment in time I realized people in cars don’t really have any good methods of communicating with each other. Honking a horn is really the only way to express an opinion in this type of situation. Which is a lot like dogs barking. Maybe the first bark is useful, but after that it is just annoying noise. And of course dogs barking at other dogs barking is a wonderful way to spend a hot summer’s night.

To make the world a slightly better place to live, I believe cars should be equipped with the “emotion icons” similar to those found in E-mail messages and Instant Messenger services. For example, when merging on to the highway, the driver could press the “smiley face” button on the dashboard. This would cause a display unit on top of the vehicle’s roof to light up briefly with a smiling face. The driver who let the car in would see this sign of gratitude and, if he happens to works for the United States Postal Service, might postpone his plans for a murderous workplace rampage.

Another useful icon would be a face with an “Oops, my bad—Sorry about that” look to be used when a driver does not take note of the car in the blind spot before changing lanes on the highway. An “I’m this close to going on a murderous rampage” symbol might prove useful. Even something along the lines of “I’m in the process of delivering a baby—please get out of my way so I can get to the hospital!” could come in handy on occasion.

So, eventually we made our way past the accident, pausing only briefly to see the twisted wreckage that had delayed our journey. While slightly behind schedule, I dropped my sister off at the airport with enough time for her to get aboard her flight to Las Vegas. When I got back home I documented my proposed enhancements and sent them off to several major automobile manufacturers. I have not received any replies, but I remain optimistic 🙂

Shell Games

Before going on I must point out that what I am about to say it pure speculation. Despite having an Arabic name I was born and raised in the United States (as were both my parents and three of my four grandparents). I don’t speak or write any language other than English and the few bits and pieces of French I remember from high school. To the best of my knowledge I have never been questioned by the FBI. And despite certain hostile feeling towards my ninth grade algebra teacher, I have never been accused of trying to incite a Jihad.

Having said that, consider the following.

Staying completely ignorant of the current “War on Terrorism” is almost impossible with the daily five page special in the newspapers. The round the clock CNN coverage comes complete with constant headlines crawling across the bottom of the screen with helpful bits of information such as “Fighting continues in Afghanistan,” “FBI searching for source of Anthrax,” and “CNN headline crawler graphics still up and running.” While I don’t spend every waking moment obsessed about how things are going to turn out, I did have a rather disturbing random thought today: What if Bin Laden is not in Afghanistan as the moment?

The world is a very big place, and Afghan caves are only one of many places where someone could hide. It’s quite possible that Bin Laden made alternate living arrangements before the September attacks. It would serve his cause to be living somewhere else once the military campaign begins. It seems reasonable that a country like Iraq would be willing to quietly take him in just to make the United States look bad. Here is how the conversation between the two leaders might have gone, with the exception that they probably wouldn’t be speaking in English.

Saddam: Hello, Saddam Hussein speaking.

Bin Laden: Mr. Hussein, it’s Osama here. How are things going over there in Iraq?

Saddam: Osama Bin Laden? THE Osama Bin Laden? Boy, I’ve heard a lot about you. Seems like you have built up quite an impressive terrorist operation over the past couple of years. So, I just HAVE to know– were you the one who bombed those US embassies in Africa? And the attack on the U.S.S. Cole? I have to admit that was pretty damn cool.

Bin Laden: Well, I don’t like to brag….

Saddam: Come on, it’s me, Sadam—I just have to hear it from you first hand. I promise, I won’t tell anyone else.

Bin Laden: OK, yes, that was me. You are making me blush here Sadam. Listen, I have a favor to ask you. I was wondering if I could crash at your place for a while.

Saddam: What’s the matter—is Afghanistan not cool enough for you anymore?

Bin Laden: It’s not that. I am going to play a little trick on the United States, and I need to lay low for a few months.

Saddam: Sure, come on over—stay as long as you want. I’m all for making those guys look bad. I’m getting pretty sick of them bombing Iraq. Okay, maybe in retrospect we shouldn’t have invaded Kuwait, but for Allah’s sake, that was 10 years ago. They really need to get over it and go home—the party is over.

Bin Laden: Thank you so much Saddam. This really means a lot to me. But I do have to warn you—if everything goes as planned, the US will so want to rip me a new a-hole. Possibly two or three. When they find out where I am it could get ugly.

Saddam: Ah, don’t sweat it my friend. They have been trying to kick my ass out of the country for the past decade. It always reminds me of that old Elton John song.

Bin Laden: Crocodile Rock? I never understood that one. Why does he want to dance with this animal? It’s not cute like a puppy or kitten.

Saddam: No, silly. The song “I’m Still Standing.”

Bin Laden: Ah, I understand you now. I’m going to pack up a few things and slip on over tomorrow night. But, remember, my plan will only work if everyone thinks I’m still living in my cave over here. So if anyone asks just pretend you don’t know anything.

Saddam: No problem. I’ll set up the guest bedroom and if anyone asks you are my cousin Mohammed who is visiting from out of town. Nobody will think twice about it.

Bin Laden: You are the best. I’ll see you tomorrow. We can sit down with a nice cup of tea and I’ll explain my plan of mass destruction and global religious warfare.

Saddam: Sounds like a plan. See you then Osama.

Another dot com

It seems like hardly a week goes by without the announcement of another dot com company going out of business. Cleaning up the mess from the latest round of failures seems to be a full time job. It will be tough living in a world where we can’t buy dog food online or pay our parking tickets while sitting at the computer. The world, which includes the Internet, will keep spinning around like it has for the past four billion years (or 2000 and some odd years, depending on which books you read).

As the main guy in charge of, I get a lot of inside information about up-and-coming web sites. And I’m not just talking about unsolicited e-mail I get on my AOL account to help me reduce my credit card debt and see “unofficial” pictures of teen-age pop singers. This week I got the inside scoop on a web site that will change the very fabric of our lives (sorry, cotton– you just didn’t keep up with the changing technology. It’s not like we didn’t warn you). That, or it will be out of business a year from now. Either way, it will be fun to watch.

I was allowed to learn more about this site provided I didn’t reveal certain specific details of the operation. The final decision about the name of the web site has yet to be determined, but since the site is still under construction, the point is moot. I can, however, provide a general overview of the new web site. The purpose of this site is to establish a complete record of everyone’s past personal relationships. This information is stored in a computer database and used to evaluate compatibility with potential future partners.

Suppose you are a young lady who meets a guy at, say, a professional arm wrestling competition. He seems nice enough, but you would like to know more about how things went in his previous relationships. You could just ask him, but he probably won’t give you a truly objective account of his past. With this web site, you can find out more about this young man– from the women (and/or men) that he dated before you were in the picture.

How does this work? To start out, each user fills out an extensive questionnaire to confirm his or her identity. This information is examined for accuracy and the individual is contacted through alternate means (telephone, mail, or singing telegram) to ensure authenticity. Once the background check is completed, the user is allowed to log into the system and enter personal information. Once this initial stage is complete, the user enters information regarding previous relationships in the form of a survey. This information is correlated with the record of the other person in order to create a personal history. The set of questions has not been finalized yet, but they are designed to paint a picture of that relationship. Finally, users are allowed to search the database to reveal information on future prospects.

The survey consists of a list of characteristics that could be used to describe how an individual acts while in a relationship. While some of the characteristics are more often applied to one specific gender, the same questions are asked for either sex. All of the questions in this section are of the true/false variety.

While preparing for an evening out
–>Asks if clothing makes them look fat
–>Asks if clothing is clean enough to wear in public

After having a few drinks, is likely to
–>Flirt with the bartender
–>Be unable to perform certain intimate activities later on in the evening
–>Talk excessively about previous failed relationship

Likes to go out to eat
–>at fancy restaurants
–>at reasonably priced, yet still nice restaurants
–>at Taco Bell
–>free samples at the grocery store

Likes to cuddle
–>in bed
–>on the beach
–>at Taco Bell
–>with your sister

During intimate activities, partner has been known to
–>Refuse to remove dirty socks
–>Talk about random events of the day
–>Talk about attractive coworker’s revealing outfits
–>Talk about, “Where this relationship is going?”
–>Talk about political and economic ramifications of NATO’s involvement in the former Yugoslavia
–>Pass gas

After intimate activities, partner prefers to
–>Wander aimlessly to the refrigerator
–>Go home
–>Fall asleep
–>Look at porn on the Internet

When the relationship ended, partner
–>Became overjoyed
–>Didn’t notice anything different
–>Needed a restraining order
–>Revealed his or her true gender
–>Started dating your sister

Will this site stand the test of Internet time? I can’t say for sure, but it does seem like a good way of finding out the truth about someone. I don’t think it will be too long before someone complains that their privacy is being invaded, but that is bound to happen one way or another. I’ll provide more information about the site when it’s made available to me. Until then, you will have to learn about your significant others the old fashioned way-through high tech night vision goggles and carefully concealed telephone wire tapping devices.

Thoughts on the Competition

While there are a lot of people in the world I consider to be my role models, I would like to devote some time and effort to recognize my favorite newspaper columnist. As a reward for writing many, many stories about toilets (including, but not limited to, things that bite you when you are sitting on one, how toilets are tested, and reasons to be sitting on one for the cover of a book) Dave Barry received the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. After an extensive search of the Internet and my own personal files, it appears that I have NOT been presented a similar award. I do recall, however, that in 1988 I began my literary career by spending a majority of time in my ninth grade algebra class writing “MATH SUCKS!” as large as I possibly could on my folder while the teacher was lecturing. Back then my writing style was rather terse.

Here is a little background information for everyone not up to date on newspaper humor. Dave Barry writes a weekly syndicated column and is employed by the Miami Herald. Which means Dave and I have a lot in common-especially when you remove the words “syndicated”, “Miami Herald”, and “employed” from the previous sentence.

One thing I know for sure is that Mr. Barry didn’t achieve this level of fame and fortune by just sitting on his ass all day long. Oh, wait, I think he does. Either way, I’ve been interested in learning more about how to become a humor columnist. While I’ve read all his writing, I would like to get a more personalized perspective on how Dave goes about writing a weekly column.

The only logical solution to my dilemma is to become a stalker. I could hide in the bushes near his house and observe him with the aid of several high priced pieces of military grade electronic surveillance equipment. I can just imagine what insights I could achieve:

July 3, 1999 2:05 AM: Selling one of my kidneys for these night vision goggles has really paid off. After hearing some continuous high pitch sound I believe to be either a state of the art security system or an infant who soiled him or her self, the subject went into auxiliary bedroom number one to reset the state of the system, made a short trip to the bathroom, wandered downstairs, and somewhat mindlessly sat down in front of his computer. Finally, I get to see the subject in his natural environment free of outside influences and distractions. The hunter becomes the hunted. Or is it the other way around?

July 3, 1999 2:11 AM: I’ve lost the subject. In addition it appears that I have gone blind due to a genetically engineered strain of glaucoma that has disrupted the normal operations of my optical nerves in a matter of seconds. This may very well jeopardize the entire mission.

July 3, 1999 2:15 AM: After further analysis, the cause of the problem appears to be a dead battery in the night vision goggles. Note to self-make an appointment with family optician for annual glaucoma test.

July 3, 1999 2:16 AM: Stalking operations continue as I am able to observe the subject through the reflected light of the computer monitor. It appears the subject is playing the card game known as solitaire. Subject is either unwilling or unable to move the red seven on to the black eight. Such a move would allow the exposure of an additional card. What is he waiting for? Move the seven, for the love of God, MOVE THE SEVEN!!!

July 3, 1999 2:20 AM: Observations prematurely halted for the night. In all the excitement I lost my balance and fell on top of a very thorny bush. The noise created by said incident distracted the subject, thereby making any further observations for the night useless.

The biggest problem with celebrities becoming popular enough to have deranged stalkers is the reporting by the media is always biased towards the stalkee. The report mentions tangential points such as mental illness, missed medications, and one-sided illusions of matrimony. The stalker never gets to tell his or her side of the story. I plan on eliminating this fundamental form of discrimination. Once my stalking begins, not only will I publish all of my written notes on my web site, but I will also web enable all of my surveillance equipment so I can provide a live Internet broadcast of my activities. I know there are a lot of people out there who would like to become a stalker, but lack the financial resources and ability to get off the couch to realize their dreams.

Is this a plan of action that will advance my writing career? I’m not really sure. Could it land me in jail? Quite possibly. But one way or another, I’m going to find the source of all his toilet stories.

Easter Time

The time has come once again to talk about my favorite social event which, on occasion, is celebrated in April. I’m not talking about the World Wrestling Federation coming to town, the Denver Nuggets announcing a trade of their best players in exchange for a handful of magical beans, or the Internal Revenue Service deciding to audit everyone who wrote nasty comments on their checks to pay income taxes. The event of which I speak is Easter.

To be honest, when I started writing this, I was a little bit fuzzy about the actual date of this holiday. After doing a little research on the World Wide Web, I discovered more often than not Easter falls on a Sunday. While that might be enough information for the casual Easter enthusiast, I like to go the extra mile for all the hard core Easter fanatics reading this story. After giving my research assistant the chore of waiting in line so I could eat some fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, I discovered Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the last XFL playoff game before the Denver Nuggets have been statistically eliminated from the playoffs.

To be completely accurate, that formula only approximates the exact date of Easter. The actual equation involves the seventy-two characters representing the true name of God, several artifacts from the Ark of the Covenant (as seen in the first “Indiana Jones” motion picture), and the combination of Bill Gates luggage. Several universities in the world offer graduate degrees in creating computer models for the occurrence of Easter. The National Security Administration is said to have its own set of satellites devoted entirely to future Easter prediction.

I’ve been getting a lot of fan mail asking how I celebrate mainstream Christian holidays. To be honest, I don’t actually get fan mail quite yet, but I believe this is a plot by “The Man” who, despite the fact that I am a white male, is trying to keep me down by removing any mail from my box that might improve my self esteem. Supposing that I was getting my fan mail, I would respond to all the loyal readers out there by saying that to me Easter is about getting up early in the morning, putting on a shirt with buttons all the way up the front and pants that have a crease in them, and eating a lot of candy all day long. If you replace the word “morning” to “afternoon” and change the clothes to “gray sweats with multiple salsa stains on the tummy”, it sounds like any other day.

The highlight of my Easter was the traditional Easter egg hunt. A lot of people think that at twenty-seven years of age I am a little too old to be participating in an activity designed for small children. I say that is exactly why I should be in it. Being two feet taller and a hundred pounds heavier than the competition can be quite an advantage. The biggest problem is that some of them are considerably faster than me. To compensate for this advantage, I bitch slapped a few of them right before the race began to establish myself as the alpha male for the rest of the day. For the kids too young to understand the ramifications of gratuitous violence I sat each one of them down on my knee and carefully explained that if you take eggs from the Easter Bunny he will follow you home, steal all your favorite toys, and chew on your eyeballs when you fall asleep.

Needless to say, my Easter basket was quite full of colored eggs when I went home that evening. This got me thinking about what kind of lessons we are teaching to kids today. When I was growing up, I would hear my parents tell me on a regular basis not to play with my food. Then some random Sunday comes along in the middle of the spring and not only do we color the eggs, but then we go outside, hide the eggs, search for them, and finally watch what happens as we bet our younger brother Donnie that he couldn’t shove three hard boiled eggs in his mouth at the same time.

Along the same lines, I am not sure what goes on in children’s minds when we give them bunny shaped chocolate and teach them to slowly torture the animal by biting off the ears. As if hunting down all the bunny’s eggs in the form of social entertainment wasn’t torture enough for the poor animal. I think it’s fair to place at least some of our society’s ills on the contradictory signals that we are sending children on this holiday.

The bottom line is that Easter is a very complex holiday that covers many of the fundamental ideas that form the foundation of our society. Fortunately, we have boiled it down to the essentials of getting together and eating candy until everyone is too sick to move. It’s just easier that way.

Men and Women

I decided to spend some time talking about what I think is a very important problem in the world today. I’m sure a lot of people think this means more Laser Tag, evil alien overlords, or the decline of fondue. Don’t get me wrong-these are all ALL important, but the topic of the day (or, as they would say in France, “a la mode”), involves women who hate men because they are slobs. I know this sounds like ninety percent of the topics from the Jerry Springer talk show, but I would like to assure everyone that this letter will be done in a tasteful manner without any chair throwing or extensive segments bleeped out by the network censors.

Since there is a possibility this letter may be read by both genders, I really don’t have any choice to start out by saying that, yes, men are slobs. The degree to which any given man is a slob varies, but I think we can all agree that inside every man is a slob trying to express himself. I’d like to dedicate this to all the women out there. Maybe you can’t mold your man into Tom Cruise, Fabio, or John Ritter, but reading this might make you feel less likely to impale your significant other with a steak knife the next time you have to pick up his dirty underwear from the bathroom floor for the sixth day in a row.

Men often have difficulty operating a vacuum cleaner. At first you might suspect that much like household dogs, men are afraid of the strange noises produced while vacuuming. While it seems like a good theory, it doesn’t explain why men evade this chore by hanging out in their work shops all Saturday afternoon with various electric saws, drills, and sanders. A recent study reported that when asked to vacuum a carpeted area, over sixty percent of the men offered instead to spend the next three weekends installing hardwood floors.

So why are men so resistant to the vacuum cleaner? If they are anything like me, they feel tremendous guilt for never returning my girlfriend’s vacuum after we broke up. Now I can’t stop thinking of her every time I want clean carpets in my apartment. While I very rarely claim to be a licensed psychiatrist, I have come to realize the mental bond I have established between my ex and her vacuum. Symbolically, I keep her locked up in the closet-punishment for not wanting to frequent Taco Bell and the local video arcade on a regular basis.

And now a note to all the men who are reading this. I’m sure that some of you out there are married or have a girlfriend who on occasion does more than her fair share of the house work. Please keep in mind that their love for you is similar to those tablets you drop in the toilet bowl tank to make the water turn blue. You may think they are going to last forever, but every time you flush the toilet a little bit of her love goes down the drain. One day you will wake up, stumble to the bathroom, and realize the blue in the toilet bowl is gone.

My point here is that you can always go and buy more love in the detergent isle of your local grocery store. Wait, that doesn’t quite sound right. How about this: if you take a little time and plan ahead, you can keep everything in your bathroom and relationship running smoothly. Contrary to popular belief, helping clean up the dishes after a meal will not kill you. The odds of throwing out your back while putting dirty clothes into the hamper are quite small. A note to all the men reading this-please do not read this last analogy and assume the sum of your household responsibility is to drop the Tidy Bowl tablets into the toilet bowl tank. It is quite possible that your significant other will require more than that from you. For example, you might also have to be responsible for going to the store and buying the tablets.

With the possible exception of my mother, I’ll be one of the first people to admit I’m currently an unmotivated bachelor who enjoys the irony of watching ESPN while eating potato chips and repressing any fleeting thoughts about cleaning up my surroundings. Does this make me a bad person? Of course not. Is loving Taco Bell a crime? I really hope that isn’t the case. My point here is that while men are far from perfect, we are the only game in town. That is, of course until the day that scientists perfect animatronic male robots that don’t leave their underwear on the floor.

Do Pennies Make Our Lives Better?

Until last week I considered myself neutral on the entire penny issue. A recently published report sponsored by Americans for Common Cents (a pro-penny group backed by zinc companies) documents the effects if the Federal government were to take pennies out of circulation. Some of these negative consequences includes an effective 600 million dollar “rounding tax”, erosion of consumer confidence, and increase in the national deficit.

I believe this report should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Aside from the copper coating, pennies consist of 98% zinc. I will admit upfront that I have no previous experience with the zinc industry or how it operates, but I think it is reasonable to believe they make a fair number of dollars producing all those pretty pennies for the US Treasury Department. Every time a penny is lost down between the couch cushions, dropped down a wishing well, or carefully placed in the path of an oncoming locomotive, the zinc industry is there to help produce a brand new one. That doesn’t even include pennies that just get worn out by getting jiggled around in pockets and purses on a daily basis. If pennies were to be taken out of circulation, I don’t think the zinc industry would be very happy.

After reading about how important the zinc industry thinks pennies are to the survival of this country, I started thinking about how pennies fit into my life. Every night I take the change out of my pockets and put it into a jar that sits on my nightstand. Once the jar gets filled up I take it to my bank and put the money into my checking account. The jar goes home and the whole process starts again. If I lived in a world without pennies, I think it would take a little longer to fill up the jar, but the process itself would remain unchanged.

I thought about this long and hard, and I have been unable to envision how pennies make my life any easier. Parking meters and vending machines don’t like pennies. Parking meters swallow my pennies, but don’t allow me to leave my car parked any longer. I guess it’s not worth their time to give them back. Vending machines generally spit the pennies out into the coin return slot. I suppose I would not be too happy if I was waiting behind someone who needed to insert 125 coins before the king-sized Snickers bar dropped out of the machine.

Can our great nation survive without pennies? How can we fairly conduct commerce without the proper tools to pay the exact goods and services? The answer is that we do it all the time without even realizing it. Do you ever stop at a gas station and worry about how you are going to pay for gasoline that costs $1.59 and 9/10ths of a penny per gallon? Do you ever wonder how the gas station can charge 9/10ths of a penny for a gallon of gasoline? Of course not– the gas station just rounds it to the nearest penny when they calculate the total price. Sure, they could set the price at $1.60, but then it doesn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.

Pennies used to be produced entirely of copper, but in the 1980’s the composition was changed when the cost of producing a penny out of copper exceeded the value of the coin itself. According to Americans for Common Cents, it costs taxpayers 0.72 cents to produce a penny. What are we going to do when, as it did once before, pennies are too expensive to produce? How about pennies with holes in the middle? Or better yet, we could get rid of the metal all together and declare that any scrap of paper with the hand written phrase “This piece of paper is worth one cent” is legal tender up to four cents. At least that way we could all sleep easier knowing that we don’t have to pay 600 million dollars in these so-called rounding taxes.

A sign that pennies aren’t valued in our society anymore can be seen in those little trays near the cash registers of most gas stations. A lot of people believe it’s easier to give pennies to a total stranger than slide them back into a purse or pocket. Do people leave their pennies in the tray because they believe in karma, or is it easier than having the coins stick around in their pockets until laundry day? Personally, I think it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. Either way, it doesn’t speak well for the value of a penny.

In all honesty, I don’t know which course of action is the best for our nation. I’m sure that either way the sun will still rise each morning, another wildly successful boy band will rocket out from total obscurity, and people will find something else to annoy them in their every day lives. Perhaps somewhere down the road I’ll write another article that starts “What’s the deal with nickels? Why are they larger than dimes? Do they REALLY make our lives any easier….”