Telling It Like It Is

Bathroom walls have long been a repository for the most honest (if profane) public expression, but never before had I seen such flowering of honest talk from the management.

Yet there was the sign, all typed up and fastened real nice above the pair of turbo-powered hand dryers in the restroom at the local movie house.  It read, “No, we don’t like them either, but they are the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly choice.”

Be still my heart.

While I have long been quite taken by the state-of-the-art, high-intensity water-repelling machines that have quickly achieved ubiquity in public restrooms across the country, it is surely true that most Americans, given the choice, would just as well crumple a small handful of disposable towels between their fists, if only to exhibit their expert layup skills on the wastebasket on their way out.  Environment be damned!

This being the case, I take it as a thoroughly welcome development for the management of a public entertainment venue, while helping the Green Movement along, taking the initiative to commiserate with the public’s slight annoyance at its doing so.

The reason, as I suggested at the start, is because of the uncommon honesty of it all.  There is something refreshing about a policy that is environmentally-friendly but grudgingly so, as if to say, “Look, we both know this is a pain in the patoot, but we’re just gonna have to suck it up.”

Bravo, I say.  Better to be told an unwelcome truth than a happy lie.

To begin, let us acknowledge as true that whenever any of us wants to persuade someone else to take a particular action—one that he or she might view (rightly or wrongly) as against his or her interests—our natural inclination is to lie, exaggerate or pander.

We do this largely out of fear.  Namely, the fear that if we were honest about our intentions, we might not get our way.

Rarely does it occur to us how easily such a maneuver can backfire, rendering such tactics not only morally suspect but downright counterproductive.

For instance, we fear that if kids knew certain truths about tobacco—that it can relieve stress and help curb your appetite—they would ignore the downsides (lung cancer and bad breath) and take up the habit.  So instead, we content ourselves with exhorting that “smoking is not cool,” which works wonderfully right up until the coolest kid in school lights up and everyone wonders what those grownups were talking about.

The ideal is to treat people as if they were adults capable of critical thinking and worthy of some respect, even when you think they are not.  To have the nerve to lay out the facts honestly and comprehensively, confident that your case is strong enough to stand on its own merits, without being subject to edits and omissions.

Staying on the subject of things we put in our mouths:  It has long been the case that spokespeople from the weight loss and food industries will bend over backwards to convince us that foods low in sugar and fat are just as tasty as those that are not.

Well, does anyone—including these spokespeople—actually think this?  What fools are we to be taken for?

I, for one, have drawn enormous dietary benefit from baby carrots.  They have practically no calories, a cool, satisfying crunch, and they generally fill you up enough to get you to your next meal—to say nothing of their plethora of vitamins and minerals.

However, if cheesecake were to magically acquire comparable nutritional properties while somehow retaining its taste, would I keep eating the carrots?  Don’t be stupid.

We eat our vegetables because they are good for us, just as we use energy-efficient light bulbs and electric hand dryers because it might prolong the lifespan of our species.  But do not insult our intelligence by suggesting we enjoy it.

With a U.S. Senate election on the horizon in my home state of Massachusetts, we will undoubtedly see a wellspring of “get out the vote” campaigns, extolling all the wonderful things about this most sacred of civic rights.

However, the best call-to-arms on voting I’ve ever heard came from Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson in 2008, just a few months after he became a U.S. citizen, when he told his audience, “Voting is not sexy.  Voting is not hip.  It is not fashionable, it’s not a movie, it’s not a video game, all the kids ain’t doin’ it.  Frankly, voting is a pain in the ass.  But here’s a word, look it up:  It is your duty to vote.”

Leave it to the late night jester to keep it real.