This week's Jack Handey quote isn't so much a quote as it is a story. It's called "Lowering My Standards" and comes to us from Handey's What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats, which my sister gave me for Christmas.
"As you may have heard, I have very high standards. When people see me do something, they often shake their heads in disbelief. That's how high my standards are.
But lately I've been wondering if maybe they're not too high. Am I pushing myself too hard? Do I always have to be the one everyone looks up to? Are my high standards hurting my happiness and things like that?
Why, for instance, do I always have to be the first one to show up at a party and the last one to leave? And while I'm at the party is it really so important that I tell the dirtiest joke? A lot of times, I'm the only one telling a dirty joke; why do I feel compelled to tell one that is even dirtier and more graphic? Just so I can be number one?
Why do I sometimes feel like I should get "a job" or do some kind of "work?" Does thinking about maybe getting a job make me better than other people? Am I worried that if I quit borrowing money from my friends they'll think I'm stuck-up?
When I catch my foot and stumble on the sidewalk, why do I have to pretend to keep stumbling, all the way down the street? To avoid embarrassment?
At every get-together, why do I have to do my funny cowboy dance? Why not do a dance that isn't so demanding, like my funny robot dance or just funny prancing?
Is it really my responsibility that half-empty glasses of beer not be wasted?
Whenever there's a scary sound at night, why do I have to do all the screaming? Maybe somebody else can scream and cry and beg for mercy, for a change.
Would the world really fall apart if I didn't point out to people which are the regular goldfish and which are the bug-eyed ones? Let them figure it out on their own.
Why does it have to be me who ends up asking how much someone paid for something? Everyone is curious.
Could a sock really be a parachute for a mouse? Maybe not, but does that mean I have to stand up in the middle of the movie theater and start booing?
Why do I always have to be the one who sums up what was just said, or explains to the children what Hell is, or calls the meeting to order?
These are all questions I would never even have asked myself until that incident with Don. Every day my friend Don and I would see who could trip each other the most times. But then one day I tripped him and he fell and broke his jaw. He looked up and, with slurred speech, said, "I guess you win." But what did I win? I didn't win anything, and you know why? Because I forgot to make a bet with him. But something else was wrong, and I knew it. Why did I want to trip Don in the first place? To show how clever I was, or how brave, or how successful? Yes, all of those things. So I guess that answers that.
Still, something about it bothered me. I decided to drive up to a cabin in the mountains. For a week, all I did was sit and think and watch a lot of television. How, I agonized during the commercial breaks, did I get such high standards? Was it something from my childhood, or my fraternity-hood? Was it from another lifetime, when I was in another fraternity? I wondered if my high standards were leading me to a heart attack. Then I thought, Yes, but it'll be the biggest heart attack anyone's ever had. I wondered if it was even possible for a person like me to lower his standards. Then I wondered if they still made Bosco. I became so confused and frustrated I began smashing things in the cabin. I wound up running headlong into the woods in a panic when the people who owned the cabin suddenly showed up.
As I drove back to civilization (as you squares call it), I had already made a momentous decision: I would keep thinking about the possbility of lowering my standards. Maybe, just maybe, I don't always have to do things so perfectly. Maybe when I ask someone a question I don't always have to begin it with the words "Pray tell." Perhaps I don't have to wear the fanciest fanny pack that money can buy. And when I'm at a dinner party, maybe I don't need to sniff every piece of food before I eat it. In short, perhaps I should worry less about doing the right thing and more about doing the right thang, whatever that means.
People may worry, "Isn't there a danger that if you start lowering your standards they'll go too low?" As far as I'm concerned, they can't go low enough." (28-31)
The something extra is this greeting card, also courtesy of my sister. On the inside it says, "If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself because I bet that's what really throws you into a panic." If memory serves, I think I posted this quote here not too long ago. Still, nothing beats hearing it being narrated in a cheesy voice set to even cheesier music. Not that you can hear any of that. (That would require too much technical maneuvering on my part.)