Things I Don't Understand

I’m not like most people. Most people hate to admit they don’t know the answer to questions, and will focus on what they do know until the cows come home. I look at the world as an infinite set of Encyclopedia Britannicas and I only know one small entry from the X-Y-Z volume.

My husband is not like this at all. When asked a question, he will - without pausing - make up an answer that sounds entirely plausible. When we lived in DC we used to get lots of visitors, which we would load into our mini-van and take into the city. There was a building along I-395 that had a fancy, glittery dome on top. Everyone wanted to know what it was. He told them in was a Mormon church and tourist attraction that would host choirs from all over the world. To this day, there are probably dozens of people who claim that there is a strong Mormon presence in suburban Washington, just west of Alexandria off the freeway.

I’m not stupid. I graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree, so I learned lots of good stuff. Plus I’m old, so I’ve got the life experience thing going.

But there are still whole areas that I don’t understand and can’t learn, no matter how many times it’s explained to me. Among them:

How an airplane stays up in the air. My nephew Steve explained this to me in the nicest, most patient way one time. But I still don’t understand it. They do tend to stay up, though, at least most of the time, despite the heaviness of all that steel. I figure it couldn’t hurt to lift my rear up off the seat a little bit at takeoff, so that might have something to do with it. I can’t help but think, though, that one of these days, airplanes will be flying around and suddenly they’ll be like, “What are we doing up here? We weigh a ton! There’s no way we can stay up here much longer; we better land and fast.” And that will be the end of this fantasy world we live in where big steel boats with wings fly in the sky and carry people to far distances and foreign lands.

How a computer works. I don’t care how many teaching certificates you have, you’ll never be able to teach me how computers work. Where is all the stuff on the Internet? Where is its exact location? That’s all I want to know.

How women who live together will ovulate at the same time. Because of the sensitive nature of this subject, I can’t ask any of my doctor friends over dinner or drinks. (My husband forbids this.) So this remains one of life’s great mysteries for me. The fact that it remains one of life’s great mysteries for most men, too, gives us more girl power. Many guys think we can control the tides and the phases of the moon with our ovaries. Score.

How time travel works. Einstein said it is possible, which makes A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favorite junior high books, a science fiction book and not a fantasy book, thank you very much, Mrs. Roosevelt School Librarian. But if I think about it for more than 30 seconds or if I watch Back to the Future for content and not just for laughs, I get confused, scared and a headache, and I start to question the existence of God. One of my favorite hilarious books is Live from Golgotha by Gore Vidal, which is about TV crews who time-travel back to film Jesus’ crucifixion. But between the laughs and warding off the blasphemy so that I don’t go straight to hell, the entire concept forced me to stop reading and say, “But - if they went back and changed - wait, - - if - - OK, but if . . . Advil, now!“

How long germs and viruses stay on door handles. During cold and flu season, we’re told over and over again - wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. But from what I’ve heard, a little tiny flu germ can stay on an inanimate object like a bathroom door handle or a bank drive-through canister or every single thing in Walmart, and be live and treacherous for an entire winter. And unless we want to be OCDing all over the place, opening doors with Kleenex and spraying a cloud of Lysol wherever we go, somebody’s going to have to figure out how long these little buggers live.

I actually found an article in The Independent, a British newspaper, that was supposed to answer the 10 biggest mysteries of life and none of mine were on the list. In fact, the Brits’ list had some things that even I know the answer to. Does beheading hurt? (Figures, the English would ask that question. The answer is ‘yes’ so you’re not off the hook that fast) Does wearing black make your bum look smaller? (Yes. Duh. This is the one I knew) How fat would you need to be bulletproof? (So fat that you’d die of a coronary long before you could get yourself in a predicament that would have you taking a bullet) and Why do dock leaves relieve nettle stings so effectively? (If you had 60 seconds with God and you got to ask him any question you wanted, how much you wanna bet a Brit would ask about nettle stings?)

There are no articles that ask my big questions. Even if there were, I wouldn’t be able to understand the answers anyway. Time to start focusing on what I do know: Things that start with X and Y.

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