This Is Twittering: Meta-Commentary Digest, Episode 59

Sometimes I tell jokes on Twitter and then I freak out and wonder if anybody understood the joke I was trying to make because, OMG, what if I’m not as clever as I think I am!? So then I post them again here and explain them and This Is Twittering: Meta-Commentary Digest.

WORDPLAY:

I think this is a really good joke. And I like to believe Gandhi would think so too.

WISDOM:

This is a joke about pots and kettles.

WORDPLAY:

See, because you didn’t predict that, did you?

WISDOM:

This is along the same lines as the bad decisions joke, but more serious. People who don’t finish all their antibiotics (and people who needlessly take antibiotics) are—in a very small but very real way—contributing to the downfall of humanity as we know it. Unless Earth is taken out by an asteroid or something else like that, it’s only a matter of time before the superbug hits. It’s all in the movie Contagion (I assume, because I haven’t seen the movie Contagion). But here’s the rub: we’ll probably be the architects of our doom sooner than that. My theory is, selfishness will consume society sooner than natural or unnatural disasters. And, for me, littering is the embodiment of our selfishness for two reasons:

  1. You know that someone, at some point, is gonna have to pick that up, right? Somewhere down the line, a janitor or a street sweeper or whoever is going to have to come along and pick up your trash. If that person were standing ten feet away from you, would you still litter in front of them? Or would you hang on to it for the extra five minutes until you’re near a trash can? But maybe I’m making too bold of an assumption. Maybe you would still drop your trash on the ground in front of that person. After all, it’s their job, right? Which brings me to…
  2. The person who will eventually pick up your trash isn’t standing ten feet away. Usually your garbage will stay on the ground, in the bush, on the side of the road for a while. Sometimes a long while. And I’m betting that you don’t like to stare at—and walk through—giant piles of trash everywhere you go. Which means that, when you drop your bit of trash on the ground, you’re presuming—and taking advantage of the fact—that everyone else isn’t going to do the same thing too. If everyone littered all the time, you’d be disgusted every time you went out in public.

It’s this simultaneous disregard for others, while implicitly expecting them to live up to a higher standard, that makes littering such a selfish (and hypocritical) act. And the fact that it’s all for something as stupid and inconsequential as dropping a piece of paper on the ground makes it more meaningful, not less.

Before you get all pissy and defensive, listen: Yes, like everyone, I’ve littered before. And I’m equally disgusted with myself. In fact, I disgust myself in numerous ways that no one else could ever disgust me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be disgusted by other people, too. And that’s why the final bit of this joke calls attention to the fact that we all do stuff like that. If it’s not littering or antibiotics, it’s gossiping, road rage, being rude to customer service representatives, whatever. We all do stupid, horrible things that don’t really seem very bad when considered individually, but which add up to a shittier world.

Is littering going to bring about the downfall of civilization? No. But I don’t see how it, and its underlying mindset, can lead to anything good.

(Also: remind me to tell you sometime why I believe that plagues, climate change, peak oil, or even an asteroid impact will have a tough time ultimately destroying humanity. Humans are amazingly adaptable. I’m optimistic about our ability, as a species, to survive.)

WORDPLAY:

“Chevy Chase.” Lame. But I think it really is a good name for a car.

WISDOM:

At first you think this is just stupid, but then you think about it some more and you’re like, whoa.

STUPID:

Asking for a friend, asking for a friend.

WORDPLAY:

I like this one because it’s a good joke structurally, but also because “compulsory imagination sessions” are a funny thing to think about (or to be compelled to imagine).

STUPID:

Women are awful, aren’t they? I’d be gay, except men are way more awful.

WORDPLAY:

It’s debatable if this is actually wordplay. It’s more expectation-play. People understand what the intended meaning of “not stopping at any red lights” would normally be (i.e., that I encountered only green lights on my drive) and most drivers understand the subtle thrill of improbably getting all green lights on a long drive (hence the “wow”). These two factors make it very probable that the reader will buy into this assumption after the first clause. But, by the end of the second clause, I’ve made it clear that I mean “stop” in a more literal sense, implying that I did encounter red lights but I drove through them. This then raises the stakes of my initial “wow” statement, making the joke funnier.

WISDOM:

This seems to be generally true.

That concludes this episode of This Is Twittering: Meta-Commentary Digest.