Last week at the Friends of the Library sale in New Albany, I bought a book by David Feldman entitled: Imponderables: The Mysteries of Everyday Life. I’ve already read several books in this series and I’m a big fan of Feldman, who defines “Imponderables” as “questions that cannot be answered by numbers, measurements, or standard reference books.” He says that he discovered imponderables one day at the supermarket, when he noticed that virtually every cereal, even the really sugary ones, contained 110 calories per ounce. With a college major in popular culture, Feldman is very serious about his “imponderables”. He has been working on them since the 1980’s, he’s published nine volumes on the topic, runs the Imponderables.com website, and has even trademarked the word.
With their short entries, Feldman’s books make excellent reading for situations that call for brief distractions. I never pass up one of Feldman’s books or any of those of his chief rival, syndicated columnist, Cecil Adams , who modestly bills himself as “the world’s most intelligent human being” and writes books, as well as the Straight Dope newspaper column.
Some of the topics they address remind me of the comic strip, They’ll Do It Every Time, created by cartoonist Jimmy Hatlo in 1929. Suggestions for this strip came from readers and Hatlo credited them with an acknowledgment that featured a drawing of himself, tipping his hat. My wife Diane’s mother once got a “Tip O’ the Hat” for her observation on how movie theaters would try to charge a young person an adult admission one time, but then refuse admission to a movie for adults the next.
While both Feldman and Adams have done a commendable job covering an enormous range of questions, there are still a lot of things that baffle me. Below are a few of my most recent puzzlements.
- About a dozen years ago we moved in to a house with both an upstairs and a basement, so why are we not as thin as rails, from constantly traipsing up and down the stairs. I recall a study from the 1950’s that said that when typists started using electric typewriters they burned fewer calories and, on the average, gained 10 pounds over the course of a year. Taking into account the average number of trips up and down the stairs we make each day, according to my calculations by now Diane and I should each weigh about 95 pounds. So what gives?
- I also find that I am an “Imponderable” for another person. A former co-worker of mine had a heart attack several years ago. He went through cardiac rehabilitation and is doing very well. Unlike me, however, he had always been very careful about his weight, diet, exercise, and cholesterol levels. Also unlike me, he didn’t have an extensive family history of heart problems. He never said it directly, but whenever the topic came up I could tell that he just couldn’t understand why he had a heart attack, instead of me. He always seemed a bit agitated by this bit of cosmic unfairness and I usually felt like I should apologize for not defibrillating. When I suggested it might be due to all the stairs that I climb at home, he was not amused.
- Another thing I can never understand is why, whenever we go grocery shopping and get anything extra, it seems to disproportionately increase the total bill. Adding a simple pot roast or a couple jars of mayonnaise suddenly inflates the bill tremendously. The same is true in restaurants, if we’re foolish enough to order dessert, an appetizer, or coffee after dinner.
- Diane has noted that some Jeffersonville merchants often talk in glowing terms about how downtown New Albany has developed, while merchants from New Albany often seem to envy the quaint downtown Jeffersonville shopping district. I suppose this is mostly a case of the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence.
- Tapas restaurant are another mystery to me. It seems that if a menu item is called a “ Tapa”, somehow it’s okay to charge a lot for a relatively small portion. I think “Tapas” must be Spanish for “expensive leftovers”. Of course, after drinking a pitcher of Sangria, you don’t really mind so much.
- Why do other people always have pets that are loyal, obedient, and affectionate, while ours are always traitorous, stubborn, and usually highly defiant (not unlike our children). When we got our last dog, I did some research to try to find the perfect breed. No such luck, Newman was just as obnoxious as our previous pets. He finally ran away, found a better family with children, and was loyal to them.
- Why do new shoes feel really comfortable in the shoe store, but start hurting the second you get them home.
- Another question that has baffled me for years is, why can’t I ever drive down the street, without someone pointing at one of my tires.
- How can I lose a receipt, just walking from the check-out to the exit at Wal-Mart? Once they asked to see my receipt, as we were leaving the store, so without bothering to check, I gave them the only one I had in my wallet. Turns out that receipt was from Off-Broadway Shoes.
- I would like to know just who is it that is listening to our car radio turned up so loud? I deny it, Diane denies it, but occasionally when I put the key in the ignition, the radio is so loud that I nearly jump out of my skin.
- My grandchildren would really like to know how come, when you get a new sled, it never snows?
- Why does my cell phone bill change ever month? My cell phone bills are like snowflakes— no two are ever alike. Every month it seems that the charges randomly fluctuate.
- Finally, one of the mysteries of the ages, “Why do Tater Tots taste so darn good?”
Based on a newspaper column in the Southern Indiana News-Tribune.