Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Property of Water is to be Wet

During the lunch break for a rehearsal yesterday, I ate outside with the company of other musicians. It was a blustery day, but the temperature was right and the sun was full. I enjoyed basking for a bit, though the redness of my forehead and arms indicate I may have developed an October sunburn. I think the last one of those I had was a trip to Florida a year or two ago. Needless to say, I don't regret it.

The conversation turned to eating cute animals (veal, pigs, lamb) and one person mentioned koala, theorizing it must taste delightful. When koala was mentioned in an informal social context, a mechanism clicked in my brain. It caused me to say that a high percentage of koalas have gonorrhea as an STD. This fact had the desired effect, which was equal measures of disgust and interest, depending on the person.

I should correct that koala fact, because the koalas actually have chlamydia, not gonorrhea. The facts obviously got slightly jiggled in my brain.

The other response to my utterance was the now standard combination of "how do you know that?" and "why do you know that?" So many times I've heard those words in response to something that I dredge up out of my memory. Sometimes it is appreciatively asked, sometimes morosely, and sometimes in annoyance. No matter how it's asked, it makes me feel less human.

I know it in the same way you may remember what it was like at your first baseball game, or what you had on the cake at your ninth birthday party, or what the man was wearing when he gave you a quarter for pointing him in the right direction. I know it because somewhere along the line, that was a story that I encountered. It's not a pleasant fact (the STD causes blindness and infertility, and may be the largest killer of wild koalas in Australia), but it is interesting. And it's the interesting part that sticks with me.

It's the same reason I retain the knowledge about Operation Mincemeat, an amazing WWII British disinformation operation. It's the reason I know the painter Caravaggio murdered a pimp, possibly while trying to castrate him. That Pliny the Elder (famous Roman naturalist) died in the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. And the reason why I know a thousand thousand other such points of trivia. Because that's interesting. It's not important, it's not essential, and it certainly isn't helpful, but it is interesting.

And it does make me feel weird when people - whether or not they find it interesting - make a big deal out of me knowing something that not everyone else knows. One person even pumps my arm like a slot machine when he feels I'm about to say something. Just because I find it interesting doesn't mean everyone else will. I'm just trying to add to the conversation, not change the subject (or the focus).

I feel like it distances me from what "regular people" know, even though I am also a "regular person." I don't know a thing about law, or botany, or football, or pop music. Also countless other subjects. Maybe people would catch on if every time a sports statistic or piece of advice popped up in conversation, I just made a face and said, "How in the HELL do you know that?"

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