During Thanksgiving, I was hanging out with a couple of millennials who happen to share my name. It seemed, whenever a question came up in a conversation or there was a need to confirm a fact, one of these guys would quickly look up information on his smart phone.
I have had a smart phone for years, but mostly for calls and text messages. I am not in the habit of using the device like a handheld set of encyclopedias. This all changed a couple of weeks ago. I was invited to attend a holiday party, and when it was time for the event, I was exhausted. There was no way I was going to be able to socialize, much less carry on my end of any conversation. And then I remembered I had in my possession a tool that gave me the ability to be the smartest guy in the room. All I had to do was bring my phone and look up various items on Wikipedia on the sly. I’d be the life of the party. The plan was foolproof. Well, almost. Let’s just say a fool was involved in the scheme. It went something like this:
Me: Hey Joe, Bob.
Joe: Hey there, Mark.
Bob: Mark. What’s up?
Me: Not much, but … um … did you know that the leotard, that tight-fitting garment for the torso, worn by dancers, acrobats and the like, was named after Julius Leotard, a 19th century French aerial gymnast?
Joe: Is that a fact?
Me: It is. Also, are you aware that the Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change in prices over time of basic consumer goods and services?
Joe: Really? That’s interesting. Anyway, Bob, as I was saying, back in 1993, my wife and I …
Me: Did you say 1993?
Joe: Yes. Why?
Me: On, nothing. It’s just that that was the year Robert W. Fogel and Douglas C. North, both of the United States, shared the Nobel Prize in Economic Science. Ah, 1993. The year apartheid finally ended in South Africa; the top song was Dreamlover by Mariah Carey; the big movies were Jurassic Park and Mrs. Doubtfire; the world population was 5,477,000,000 and the Pentium Processor was invented.
Joe: You don’t say. Uh, Mark, I think I hear someone in the kitchen calling you.
Joe: Where was I? Oh, yeah, back in 1993, my wife and I boarded the dog and took a trip to …
Me: What kind of dog?
Joe: It was a beagle.
Me: Hold on a second … did you know that the beagle is the seventh most popular breed of dog in the world? And that 61,051 of the dogs were registered with the American Kennel Club last year alone?
Joe: Uh, no. I didn’t know that. Wow. Anyway, we packed up the car and headed to New Mexico …
Me: Cresit Eundo.
Me: Crescit Eundo. The state motto of New Mexico. It means, “It grows as it goes.”
Bob: Speaking of going, I think I’m done here.
Joe: Wait Bob, please don’t leave me …
Me: New Mexico. The land of Enchantment. Entered the Union as the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912. The state flower is the yucca, and the state bird is the road runner. Beep. Beep. Get it? You know, the cartoon.
Ken: Hey Joe, Mark.
Joe: Thank God. I mean, hi Ken.
Me: Hi Ken. Ken. Kenya …
Me: Just a minute. Say, Ken, did you know that the northern three-fifths of Kenya is arid and to the south there is a low coastal area and a plateau varying from 3,000 to 10,000 feet?
Ken: What is this guy talking about?
Joe: I don’t know. He’s been spewing facts ever since he got here. Keep him busy and I’ll go find the host.
A short time later …
Me: … and in Spain, an industrial revolution during World War I created an urban proletariat, which was attracted to socialism and anarchism. At this point, Catalan nationalists challenged central authority.
John: Excuse me, Mark, but several of the guests have complained about the quality of your party conversation. My wife and I feel it might be best for you to leave.
Me: Leave? Did you say leave? Like leaves? Do you know what causes leaves to change colors and fall off trees? It results from the inclination or tilt of the earth’s axis with respect to the sun. We’re in what’s known as the north temperature zone, and our season of fall occurs during the autumn equinox, which …
John: Ken, Joe, give me a hand with this guy.
Me: Wait. Wait. There’s more.
And that’s my story. The smartest guy in the room was carried to his car and requested not to come back. So much for the information age.
Mark Albury lives in Northfield Falls.