When Brains Go Bad Richard Luck Essay

person_pin When Brains Go Bad

by Richard Luck

Published in Issue No. 8 ~ July, 1997

 I’ve come to the realization that everything I learned in college is completely useless. A lot of this might have to do with the fact that I was a Liberal Arts major (meaning: I know a lot about very little and can talk liberally about what I do know, artfully lying when I don’t have a clue.) Still, I have yet to be asked by my employer to submit a critical essay concerning any piece of literature I’ve read. I eagerly anticipate the day I can apply the theories of macroeconomics I so diligently learned to a task other than balancing my checkbook. If I were ever asked to plot the area of an octagon, well, I might just pee myself, such would be my glee.

The closest I’ve ever come to using any of the knowledge I acquired in college came a few years back when I was visiting relatives in Los Angeles. Standing before a Rauschenberg painting in the L.A. County Museum of Art, an elderly woman dressed in a dark cardigan and gray wool skirt turned to me and asked, “So, what do you think?”

“It’s quite nice,” I told her. I felt rather pleased with myself, I must admit. Four years and $28,000 I’d invested in the answer to that question. I was beside myself with gratitude; overwhelmed by the opportunity to strut my stuff. An entire college education surmised in three little words. What economy! What a bargain.

As anyone who has ever ventured onto a college campus will agree, the majority of what we learn there comes from our extracurricular activities. For example, the many nights I spent at the Phi Delta Theta house taught me how to drink copious amounts of alcohol without stumbling around like a sodden drunk — an important survival tool for anyone who has ever had to endure a mind-numbing office party filled with sixty-seven coworkers who would make the zombies from Night of the Living Dead look like Vegas revelers. The half-dozen or so practical jokes my roommate and I played on the other inhabitants of our dorms taught me several useful things, too. Like:

  • How to lie with a straight face when asked if I was involved. (I once used this tactic during an IRS audit — and with profitable results.)
  • Breaking and Entering. It sounds ugly, I know, but when you lock yourself out of the house as often as I do, it’s a rather handy bit of knowledge to have
  • The difference between ripe and over–ripe produce.
  • How long fresh eggs can go unrefridgerated before they spoil.
  • Ingenious uses of duct-tape, and how to apply it for maximum effectiveness.
  • How to “penny” a door, effectively locking the inhabitant inside.

I have yet to apply this last technique to any practical purpose, but I have a feeling that when I finally have children I’ll be glad I paid attention when that lesson was given.

It seems to me that all of the truly important lessons come from simply living life. They’re frustrating courses at times, admittedly, but they at least have a practical application. Like, how to stop the gas pump on an even dollar amount. Or, why it’s less expensive to have one credit card at twenty-percent interest, rather than three at twelve-percent. Or, how, despite every item at the local fast-food restaurant costing a few dollars and “ninety-nine cents,” the total for your meal is always going to be at least a quarter more than what you have in your pocket at the time. Or, how buying two large pizzas from Domino’s is somehow cheaper than buying one medium-sized pizza with fewer toppings. And how no one really knows what’s in Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Secret Recipe of eleven herbs and spices, but it’s pretty much agreed that flour, salt, and pepper comprise the bulk of the mixture.

We, as humans, spend the vast majority of our time doing three things: sleeping, eating, and having sexual relations in one form or another. In between all of this carnivorous nocturnal fornicating, we may read a book, watch a little television, run a few errands, or go to our job for a few hours. Our days are filled with little else. And yet this “little else” is what so many of us have invested innumerable years and dollars to entertain.

I often wonder how much better off I’d be if I had studied subjects more in tune with life’s larger themes. Can you imagine the results?

  • Sleeping 101 — The Art of Selecting the Perfect Mattress.
  • Sleeping 102 — Pillows: Down or Dacron?
  • Eating 201 — Beans and Other Embarrassing Legumes.
  • Eating 203 — Utensils: Forks, Sporks, and Spoons.
  • Sex 310 — The Dismount, or, “Ow, you’re on my hair.”
  • Sex 410 — Advanced Positions (prerequisite Sex 101, 201, and 301; or equivalent, if approved by instructor.)

If nothing else, though, college taught me how to handle stress. Whether it be external (the type of stress a professor inflicts upon you when, hours before Keg-Party Weekend, he assigns a forty-five page research paper, due the following Monday) or internal (the type of stress that comes from actually trying to type those forty-five pages on Monday morning while suffering from a thundering hangover), I learned how to cope, how to deal, and how, if absolutely necessary, to simply hide and hope it will all go away.

But I’ll talk more about that later. Right now I can’t seem to find the remote. Melrose Place starts in ten minutes and I was knee-deep in a twelve pack the day my classmates went over Manually Operated Appliances in HomeEc.

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Richard Luck is the Founder and Technical Director for Pif Magazine.