Cumberland Times-News

April 20, 2013

The trick is to know that you don’t know

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Socrates is quoted as saying, “Wisdom

begins with the awareness of what you do not

know. The only thing I know is that I know


If that is true, then I am a

wise man, and I am getting

wiser every day.

My pal Maude recently

said there are many things

she doesn’t understand. Well,

there are many questions I

cannot answer ... like this:

Why do you get raindrops

on the inside of your eyeglasses,

even when you’re

wearing a hat or cap that has

a brim?

It was sprinkling the other day when Capt.

Gary and I were standing outside talking. I

was wearing a ballcap, and Gary’s head was

covered by a hoodie. Both of us got raindrops

on the inside of our glasses,

but not the outside.

Why, I also wonder, do some

women like to fuss with other

women’s hair? I see this done

occasionally, and could ask

why they do it, but probably

wouldn’t understand the


(Goldy’s Rule 135: The things a woman

does that a man doesn’t understand, she does

for three reasons — the reason she gives, the

reason she thinks, and the real reason —

which she herself may not understand ...

Source unknown.)

A friend e-mailed me a collection of unanswerable

questions (original source also

unknown) titled “Why, why, why?”

It included:

• Why do people order double cheeseburgers,

large fries and a diet soft drink? (Many of

us wonder about this.)

• Why is “abbreviated” such a long word?

• Why is the man who invests your money

called a “broker”?

• Why is the time of day with the slowest

traffic called “the rush hour”?

I wonder why people like to chew gum,

smoke a cigarette and drink a soft drink all at

the same time. I tried it one time at The

Famous North End Tavern, and it was awful.

It took several beers to get the taste out of my


I also wonder why waitresses always wait

until you have a mouthful of food before they

ask you if everything is satisfactory.

The behavior patterns of squirrels is a particular

mystery to me.

The fact that we refer to odd behavior

among humans as “squirrelly” leads me to

believe that our ancestors who molded the

English language and created its idioms probably

felt the same way about squirrels.

The only thing I really understand about

squirrels is that they taste good.

Squirrels are the reason we have so many

oak trees, which grow from acorns that squirrels

have buried to serve as a future food

source, then forgot about.

Forgetful though they may be, squirrels

aren’t dumb, as I learned from a nature program

that was devoted to finding ways to keep

bird feeders from becoming squirrel feeders.

The ingenuity of the people who designed

supposedly squirrel-proof feeders was great,

but the ingenuity of the squirrels who figured

out through trial and error how to circumvent

the obstacles was even greater.

Google says it can find 2.1 million results for

“squirrels figuring out bird feeders.”

Squirrels do have a certain intelligence —

one took a disliking to Capt. Gary and pelted

him, and no one else, with huge acorns from a

tall oak tree at Little Round Top. (He will say I

am dissing him by saying the squirrel was

smart enough to single him out. I am merely

noting that the squirrel was smart enough to

differentiate between human beings; humans

are rarely able to differentiate between squirrels.)

A lady tourist suggested it was because he

was wearing a blue Union uniform, and the

squirrel was gray.

What puzzles me most about squirrels is

this: Why, when a squirrel runs

across the road in front of your

car, does it stop on or about

the center line, in a place

where you’re going to miss it

— but then it turns and runs

back the way it came, and

that’s when you run over it.

I never hesitated to shoot a squirrel for

food, but it bothers me to kill one with my car.

Unlike squirrels, possums don’t go out of

their way to get run over. They just get run


If I am driving and have a passenger —

especially if it’s a girlfriend — and see a roadkilled

possum, I launch into a heated tirade

that goes like this:

“Damn these possums!

“I keep telling them, ‘Ask the chicken how

it’s done. The chicken knows how to cross the

road.’ Do you ever see a dead chicken beside

the road? NEVER!

“But do you think they’ll listen to me? Hell,

no! And the carnage continues! One dead possum

after another! Why does it have to be this

way? Why? Why?”

The usual response from the shotgun seat is

silence, and it may last a while ... perhaps permanently.

(I was told that my habit of saying,

“Hell of a waste of good land” every time I drive

past the prisons in Cresaptown contributed to

the deterioration of a past romance.)

Here’s something else I wonder about:

A nationwide poll indicated that the overall

approval rating of Congress stands at 15 percent,

which is lower than that of lawyers, the

Internal Revenue Service or even the press.

Even though Americans have a dim view of

Congress as a whole, they persist in re-electing

their own senators and representatives

(although some of them apparently are able to

see the handwriting on the wall and retire

before the voters can throw them out).

Why? Most likely, it’s because the voters

dislike their congressman’s opponent more

than they dislike their congressman (who

often demonstrates his usefulness by giving

them things).

Or, as the Yankee Government’s politicians

say about the disreputable tin-hat dictators

they consider allies:

“He may be a b*****d, but he’s OUR