Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Smart Ass Heritage

Being a smart ass writer is not a hard job. A hard job is a job with high stakes, like an emergency room doctor. At any moment a customer might burst in with an axe in their head and it’s your job to remove it. And you can’t just wrestle the damn thing out like it’s lodged in a tree stump. You have to remove it with precision or it could be lights out for your poor unhappy customer.

There is no chance anybody will burst into my workplace demanding that I remove an axe from their head, unless they’re mighty delirious from blood loss. Therefore I don’t have a hard job. That’s why when I hear writers whine about how we’ve got the hardest job in the world, I want to give them a good hard slap, brother to brother. There’s nothing at stake for writers but our egos. If we write something putrid, the worst that can happen is we are embarrassed. Nobody dies, or at least I hope not. I certainly hope I’m incapable of writing something so hideous that people read it and die.

Having said that, I think it’s nevertheless important for me to honor and commemorate my smart ass ancestors, whose contributions and sacrifices in all walks of life have done a lot to advance civilization. They have often fled persecution in search of a better life. A lot of celebrated figures have been smart asses. For instance, did you know that Albert Einstein was a flaming smart ass? It’s true! And people who were in Florence Nightingale’s inner circle will tell you she was one super sarcastic dame.

I’m proud to have come from a long line of smart asses. I’ve so far traced my smart ass family tree back to my great grandfather, Stanislaw, who, back in his homeland of Poland, was known as Stanislaw the Smart Ass. Stan was a sturdy, hardworking man who dropped out of school so he could fulfill his dream of opening his own gag store. There he sold hilarious items, such as whoopee cushions, squirting lapel flowers and fake puke and poop.

Life was sweet for Great Grandpa Stan. In his heyday, he had gag stores all over Poland. But it all came crashing down when the Nazis took over. The generals immediately issued orders closing all gag stores. Such stores were considered to be a threat to the Third Reich. When the communists took over, they also kept the gag stores closed. And so the only place the people of Poland could buy fake puke and poop was on the black market.

Stanislaw fled to France where he once again set up shop. But he still felt stymied by the government because in the socialist dystopia that is France, there are tons of burdensome regulations that smother free enterprise. For example, there was a law requiring a seven-day cooling off period after someone purchased a whoopee cushion.

Great Grandpa Stan finally came to America, where whoopee cushions and squirting lapel flowers are protected by the First Amendment since they are considered to be a form of free speech (see the U.S. Supreme Court case of BoBo the Clown v. Richard Nixon, 1971). And here Great Grandpa Stan thrived. He never achieved his dream of someday triumphantly returning to the old country and opening another gag store. But he was so full of gratitude for the new life he found in the land of opportunity that all the products he sold in his stores were American made. He could have made a lot more money had he sold the cheap knock-off fake puke manufactured in China. But the only fake puke he stocked was that which was made in the USA.

Great Grandpa Stan was an entrepreneur, a job creator, a family man, an upstanding citizen and a great American success story. And he was a smart ass.