After the Fact: Want fries with that?


“Everything you need to know about remembering anything.” I’m waiting for the book to come out. Do you remember when Robert Fulgham’s “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” made the top 10 best seller list? It caught on so well that, thereafter, there must have been 20 books, 200 magazine articles, a movie and at least one stage play made on the same theme: “Everything I Know.”

Dr. Marv Motz (one of my very favorite teachers and a much-missed friend) started his “Psychology of Personality” class at ASU with the statement, “We are all more alike than we are different.” Even though I was well into “middle age” and taking the class “just because,” the statement opened a new perspective for me. Much of what I learned best in any class, I’d experienced first-hand somewhere else, at some other time (excepting the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and a few other minor events). And, mostly, I’ve learned how much more there is that I don’t know.

I told my friend Dolores Rightley (who is a couple of years older than I am, therefore wiser) that I thought it might be a good thing to write about what I know. Beginning with the beginning, it took half-a-century-plus-some to admit that I’m not as smart as I like to believe I am. More people that I know are smarter than I am but will let me blather on about my infinite knowledge of all manner of trivia. And, given a choice between absolute brilliance or common sense, you’re altogether better off if you chose the latter. Given a choice, you’re also better off if you listen more than you talk. Never, ever, assume that you should tell the whole truth when someone asks for your personal opinion. “Do I look fat in this dress?” can be a sure way to end a friendship.

More than once, I’ve said that, if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I’d have taken better care of myself. That would be true except that I had such a grand time doing all of the things that I did. I had an equally grand time not doing some things that I should have done. One thing I have never regretted is the number of books I’ve read; I do wish I had time left to read that many more before I go. I do wish my grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved reading but the schools simply teach a child to read words: the joy, I think, has to come from the doing. 

And if you don’t like reading, it follows that you probably won’t like writing, either. You may not be able to convince the next generation, but LOL and LMFAO are not complete sentences and certainly not great literature. Somewhere on Amazon I expect there is a book on “text-ese” with all of these “abbreviations” explained and maybe someone will take time to write a book using nothing more, but I won’t be reading it. As everyone in my generation, I spent inordinate amounts of time memorizing spelling words, taking spelling tests and even participating in spelling bees. You can still view the national spelling bee on TV but the number of kids vying for a place on the stage have become fewer and fewer.

In our mental musings, the going back to then, there are lots of things we won’t miss and lots of new things we love having. Some things, like my computer, can be loved and hated at the same time, on different days or with different applications. Or the electric windows on my Jeep, one of which (the driver’s side, naturally) is slowing down and threatening to die altogether. You know this will happen when the window is all the way down and winter arrives the next day; or when it’s stuck in the “up” position and it’s hotter than the shades of Mississippi. In August.

But there’s good in that, as well: you learn that going in to KFC or McDonalds is faster than the drive-through service. And nobody behind you is honking while you try to read the menu and make a selection for the six kids in the car. Isn’t learning new things wonderful?

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