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MANDY FLYNN: Keep your mental batteries charged

FEATURES COLUMN: Stupid questions sometimes sneak up on you

It is time to change the batteries. In the smoke detectors, I suspect, but they are not what I’m referring to. It is time to change the batteries in my stupidometer.

It’s quit working.

I have long felt, written about, and even voiced aloud that each person is equipped with a stupidometer – an innate contraption housed somewhere in our subconscious that captures, filters and, quite often, obliterates stupid thoughts before they have the opportunity to make it past your lips and out into the world as spoken word. I have one, I know, because as sure as I thought to ask my husband, “How many field goals has he scored?” last weekend, the question came to a screeching halt in my brain right before it came out of my mouth.

Why? Because I was at a basketball game and I meant to say free throws.

Whew, that was a close one.

If only my batteries had held on a few minutes more …

“What is a fragrant foul?” The words came out just after the announcer commented that one player had received this thing that, judging by the murmurs in the crowd, was not very good.

The look on my husband’s face was perplexed at first, then turned into something somewhere in between I-Can’t-Believe-You-Just-Asked-That and Oh-Lord-I-Just-Realized-My-Shoe-Has-More-Sense-Than-My-Wife.

“Flagrant foul,” he whispered, with an emphasis on flagrant. “Not fragrant.”

I managed a little laugh, trying to shake it off as though I was just trying to be funny, but I suspect he knew better. I didn’t dare ask what that meant – flagrant foul – for fear he would lose total respect. So instead, I pretended to be checking email on my phone while I secretly googled it to find that a flagrant foul is one that involves excessive or violent contact. Wow. And it didn’t mention a thing about smell.

It could have been worse, my stupid question. At least I didn’t ask if people who live in New England are allowed to vote.

“Why wouldn’t they be?” our teacher inquired, to which the student in my history class replied. “Because it’s a whole another country but it’s just in the United States, right? New England?”

She needed new batteries. Brand new.

Sometimes, my stupidometer misses things even when it’s working properly. Nothing is 100 percent.

“What are you doing?” I ask my daughter as she’s sitting on the sofa watching television.

“Uh … I’m sitting on the sofa watching television,” she says.

And then there are the times I ask the dog if he has had a nice day, my husband if he is eating a sandwich while he is holding a sandwich near his mouth and chewing, and my son if he would rather stay home and sleep or get up early and go with me to the grocery store. Not stupid questions … just … okay, they’re stupid. I could have saved my breath.

Hours later, long after the basketball game and its fragrant … I mean, flagrant … foul has passed, we are riding down the road on our way home. I am driving, when suddenly I see a possum staring at me from the side of the road, his beady little eyes illuminated by my headlights in the dark. Distracted for a second by the possum, I suddenly see out the corner of my eye a raccoon running across the road. I keep driving. I don’t swerve. I don’t hit him. Whew.

After the mild heart rush, the first thought that comes to my mind is, “I wonder if they are brother and sister?” Thank the Lord the batteries had a little bit of juice left in them. I didn’t say it out loud.

I read once that asking a question may make you look stupid for five minutes, but if you don’t ask, you may stay stupid for 50 years. So always ask questions. No matter the risk.

Even if it is, “Are we eating at noon or 12 o’clock?”

On second thought, make sure you’ve got good batteries so you don’t ask that one. It may take 50 years for me to live that one down.

Email Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.