Opinion: Feeling stupid? You should talk to me


After I finished a game of pickleball the other day, a woman approached me and asked if she could give me a hug. “What’s that for?” I asked.

“I read your column every week and I think you are the most self-deprecating guy in the world.”

“Thanks,” I said, assuming it was a compliment. She went on to say — and rightly so — that the best humor is when you make fun of yourself. Of course, I also skewer my wife, but most of the barbs I write are directed at me.

My ability to self-deprecate would soon be put to the ultimate test.

The other night, I was trying to learn how to download podcasts to listen to while out jogging. My sister had already spent about 20 minutes on the phone the previous week explaining the process, but I had forgotten everything she told me. I had no clue how to do it.

Linda’s son, Barry, is a computer whiz, so I assumed some of his savvy had rubbed off on her. Of course, the rubbing should go in the other direction: Your kids don’t rub off on you, you are supposed to rub off on them. In any case, compared to her son, Linda was out of her league when it came to computers.

Nevertheless, she proceeded to explain everything to me again. She suggested I take notes this time, so I wouldn’t pester her a third time during her California vacation with the family.

I finally got it.

“Thanks, Linda,” I said, and I shut off the phone. Or so I thought. And my sister made the identical mistake. I could still hear her talking to her son.

“How’s Uncle Dick?” Barry asked.

“He’s fine. But let me tell you something, if you ever want to stop feeling stupid, talk to someone stupider.” Yes, that’s really what she said. My own flesh and blood! I wasn’t going to take this lying down. But I did. I fell on the floor laughing. I understood exactly what she meant — and I knew this had potential for a column. I remembered what that woman said to me at the pickleball courts about self-deprecation.

How would I respond to this moment? I called Linda back and told her I heard everything she said to Barry. Linda laughed hysterically. I guess that was her way of apologizing.

After we hung up, I realized I wasn’t finished milking this situation, so I sent her this text: “Linda, like you, I would like to feel smarter by talking to someone dumber than me. The problem is that right now I can’t think of anyone I could call.”

Be warned, dear reader: If you ever see my name on your caller ID, consider why I might be trying to reach you.