Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moron Tax in the Making

The difficulty in preventing moron tax is you often don't know that you've been a moron until after moron tax begins accruing. You never realize that grabbing pants out of the hamper is a mistake until you're at work and everyone can plainly see the coffee stain on your crotch. You don't know how dumb it is to keep your ex-boyfriend's number in your cell phone until the day you discover that your butt has surreptitiously dialed his number 32x in the past week.

It is a special moment, then, when you get the notion that you may be engaging in a moronic act as it is still happening. For instance, I sprained my wrist one week ago. It is only a minor sprain -- I can make it through day with only slight discomfort -- yet my father (a doctor) instructed me to wear a wrist splint for several weeks. This presents a moron tax conundrum: would it save me more pain to (a) wear a wrist splint or (b) pretend that nothing is wrong with my wrist?

I really don't want to wear a wrist splint. This thing is highly uncomfortable, greatly diminishes my dexterity, and has a tendency to reek. Also, to wear an ostentatious medical device to treat an achy wrist is just too diva. I might as well start calling for my smelling salts when I get a paper cut. Further, I'm not sure to trust my dad, a hyper-vigilant parent who once sent me to the emergency room for x-rays after I stubbed a toe.

Doing nothing, on the other hand, is convenient. My wrist seems to be improving, too. Of course, it gets tweaky by the end of the day. At those times, I put on an tight bandage and the wrist feels almost as good as new.

So what do you think? Am I heading down the road to permanent disability or have I cleverly avoided weeks of moron tax? Maybe only time will tell. Or maybe, the answer is completely obvious and the reason why I don't see it is because I'm being a moron.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baby Showers

Among the constant burdens women endure in American society is the obligation to attend baby showers. No one I know actually likes attending baby showers. They are long. They require us to wear pastel dresses. They are filled with awkward silences and small talk about the weather. At baby showers, we find ourselves exclaiming bizarre and otherworldly things like, "Oh my gosh, a stainless steel diaper genie with motion detectors!" and "It pumps your breasts in only twenty minutes?"

Worse, baby showers invariably involve shower games -- strange and unentertaining contests that no one would ever do but for baby showers. For example, we place paper plates on top or our heads and attempt to draw a happy family. Or, we estimate the girth of the woman of honor with a roll of toilet paper. I've even sniffed baby food that's been spooned into a baby diaper in order to identify the flavor.

Each baby shower, then, incurs at least the following moron tax:
1) up to three hours of wearing a pastel Ann Taylor dress that makes me look matronly and gives me kankles;
2) hearing myself spew inane chit chat because I am so awkward and introverted that bland pleasantries is all I can muster with strangers;
3) losing a beautiful weekend afternoon;
4) ingesting 600 extra fat calories; and
5) coming face to face with my paralyzing indecision between suffering parenthood and growing old alone.

This is all moron tax because it is all avoidable. I can choose not to attend baby showers -- I know full well what awaits me there -- yet I still go. Indeed, my liability for moron tax should be rightly tripled because I even perpetuate these tortures by hosting baby showers myself and insisting that others friends have them, too. Admittedly, this makes no sense. Why do I do it?

The best I can say is that this is the only thing I can think to do to support my pregnant friends on their difficult road ahead. And there is a part of me that thinks that the pack of onesies I buy for them may buy me a small share of the vast and immense joy that expecting mothers feel for their future. Expecting parents become possessed with a certain faith that everything will be just fine, and it radiates from them like sunshine. Even if it's delusional, it's beautiful and, at least momentarily, greatly comforting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moron Purchases

I am the type of person who buys an unjustifiable amount of outdoor gear because I think that this new season's advertised technological breakthroughs will make up for all my athletic shortcomings. There is a constant stream of seamless long underwear, wind-shedding jackets, waterproof gloves (gloves are never really waterproof, yet I keep hoping), wool hiking socks, and ever-lighter backpacks flowing from the internet to my porch.

This is all moron tax, for no advance in fleece can ward away lactic acid buildup and no hiking shoe will make a 2000 ft ascent go any faster.

Or, as my friend Michelle succinctly put it, what's the point in focusing on a backpack that's 10 grams lighter, when you're carrying several pounds of extra fat in your thighs?

Oh how devastatingly true.

**Not quite moron tax, but for those who might be interested in real backcountry-related mistakes, Backcountry.com recently sent out a letter about stupid mistakes some of their sponsored ski pros have made in pursuit of their sports. Most of these mistakes led to death or near-death or loss of some precious part of the body.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Even the Young Are Not Spared

This photo is an artifact from one of my brother's toughest lessons on moron tax.

Here he is, unhappily posing for a picture in a satin pirate outfit and heavy makeup, knowing that he will never live this down. He had just completed a public recital of his pirate themed skating routine at the local community ice rink, where many of his classmates were likely in the audience.

My brother invited this on himself by making an off-the-cuff remark to my mother, months earlier, that he'd like to learn skating because his sister was learning skating. Moron tax then accrued like a snowball rolling down a hill.

Perhaps you think I'm being unduly harsh in judging my brother's remark as a moronic act. How could, after all, a nine year old boy reasonably foresee that a skating lesson could one day culminate in a tragic consequence for his budding manhood?

But oh ho ho -- you must understand that, less than a year earlier, my brother had attended my moment of shame as an chubby, tu-tu wearing, skating ice cream cone. Could he really think he would escape a similar fate?

He got what was coming to him.

One last note for fairness: only the make-up, the pirate outfit, the public performance of the pirate routine, and the everlasting photograph can be counted as moron tax. The bowl cut is something both my brother and I had been enduring for years, and it certainly wasn't anything either us asked from our mother.

Friday, April 17, 2009


When I told folks that I was blogging about moron tax, I got the response that I might as well devote my entire blog to my friend George. George is like a divining rod for untapped sources of moron tax. Consciously or not, he seeks out situations that have no clear benefit for him but have explosive potential for punishment.

One small example: One night George heard on NPR about a restaurant called Orochan which served flaming hot spicy noodles soups. He decided he wanted to eat a whole bowl just to prove that he could. To his credit, he did it. But really, what good did he do for himself?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Parking lot fiascos

Yesterday, my friend Angela brought up a common cause of moron tax -- losing one's car in the parking lot. A few years ago, when I was living in Chicago, I was running late for a job interview that required me to wear heels, nylons, and a suit. I parked the car in the underground lot beneath Grant Park and bolted to my interview several blocks away. When I was done with the interview, a snowstorm had dumped roughly 6 inches of snow on the ground. To shorten the distance I would spend walking through the snow in my nylons and heels, I ducked into the first entry to the parking lot that I saw, figuring that I would walk the rest of the way underground. That was where I first went wrong. I spent close to an hour walking all through the parking garage (up and down the various subterranean levels) in my cold, wet, and pinching heels looking for my car. Eventually, a parking attendant took pity and drove me in his electric scooter around the garage. After a half hour of that, it occurred to him that I might have been dumb enough to have parked in the other, adjacent underground parking lot. Well, of course, I did. And of course, I had to go back to where I started and walk the rest of the way through the cold snow to get to it.

Sum of the moron tax? Two hours of my time + three blisters to my feet + moderately public humiliation + $55 pair of ruined heels + $6 pair of ruined nylons + $16 additional parking fees for the two hours I spent lost. I don't think I got the job, either.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


On April 1st, Dave (my manager), orchestrated an elaborate prank on me by organizing all my co-workers to gossip that our entire department was being consolidated with the home office. Being the only one in the office not to know this was an outright lie -- and given the current economic conditions -- I actually fell for this outrageous hoax. To the great amusement of my coworkers, I spent my whole day chatting, worrying, speculating, and planning for a move that was never going to happen. This was time spent and lost on being a moron.

On April 3rd, I plotted and executed my revenge.

Although not an obvious case, I've concluded this definitely counts as moron tax. I felt like I had to do something to avenge all my moron time wasted on April 1st. Also, I actually put my hands into toilet water. This was clearly not the actions of a mature adult.

So we've come to a rule of moron tax: If your attempt to redress a moronic act leads you to do an act equally or more moronic, both the first moronic act and the subsequent moronic act qualifies as moron tax.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How much of your life can you account for?

Back in the early 90's, the play (and movie) Six Degrees of Separation challenged its audience to ponder, "How much of your life can you account for?" I rolled this question around in my head for several years. How many of my actions are the result of deliberated decisions? How often am I consciously moving myself from point A to point B? I've come to notice, not a whole lot. I think the breakdown of my life spent can be roughly broken into three parts:

1. Conscious living. About 15% percent of my time is spent actually thinking -- that is, actually thinking about an action or decision before I make it. These decisions are typically big, important ones such as taking a new job, buying a house, figuring out whether a guy is worth a second date, choosing a new shampoo, or settling on a go-to ice cream flavor. These decisions lay out the basic shape of my life. They take a significant amount of brain power and are exhausting, so once the decision is made, they become the go-to answers to any quasi-relevant question.

2. Mindless Plodding. I spend the vast bulk of my life -- perhaps eighty 80% -- plodding back and forth along the reliable route that I've created with the few decisions I've made. To work and back. To my favorite grocery store and back. Down the same jogging path and back. Another scoop of pistachio ice cream, please.

3. Moron Tax. The rest is spent on Moron Tax. Moron tax is all the time, energy, and money I spend to fix the mistakes that arise from poor decision making or mindless plodding. For instance, I once stepped into my car to make a 10 minute drive to the grocery store less than 5 miles away; instead, I zoned out and drove about 45 minutes and more than 35 miles to my parent's home. I didn't notice until I literally pulled into the driveway. All the gas lost, the time lost, the hits to my ego whenever my parents remind me about it adds up to Moron Tax.

The intention of this blog is to account for the Moron Tax part of my life that I have previously spent in secret and in shame, hoping that no one noticed. This blog will bring to light those kick-myself moments of frustration when I miss the last exit before ramping onto a 6 mile bridge I didn't need to cross. And the money spent on online-purchases that arrived when I was on vacation and are stolen off my porch. And the time spent pulling splinters from my fingers that I got using a shovel that I left out in the rain and sun for several months.

Please share your accounts of Moron Tax, too. Perhaps we'll find out that a sizeable portion of the U.S. economy is driven by our collective moments of idiocy.