Ben’s First Law of Overcoming Stupidity


When Janette met with her cousin Ben, her head was still reeling.

“I can’t believe what just happened to me. You know Bay Street? It’s a oneway heading downtown. I almost hit someone head-on who was going the wrong way. Right in the middle of rush hour. Can you believe that?” asked Janette.

A sympathetic smile widened across Ben’s face. “That’s the first of Cipolla’s Five Fundamental Laws of Stupidity. Everyone underestimates the number of stupid people in circulation.”

“What laws?”

“Dr. Carlo Cipolla. He wrote ‘em back in the seventies.”

“Never head of him,” dismissed Janette. “Know the worst part of the whole thing? The idiot who nearly killed me was the CFO of the company I work for.”

“That’s Cipolla’s second law. The probability that someone is stupid is independent of any characteristic of that person.”

Janette frowned and her hands shook. “What’re you talking about?”

“It means stupidity is universally and equally proportioned across all socio-economic, ethic and gender classifications,” explained Ben.

“Whatever,” spat Janette. “At least you could give me a little sympathy.”

“What good is that?”

“It would make me feel better.”

“Maybe, but it wouldn’t make you smarter.”

The insinuation made Janette bristle. “So I’m not smart enough?”

“Is anyone? Really?”

Janette simmered. Ben had an infuriating way of putting things in perspective.

“Alright,” she fumed. “Give me some knowledge.”

Ben smirked. “I’ll give you the definition of a stupid person. It’s someone who causes losses to another person or group of people while deriving no gain to themselves, and possibly even incurring losses. That’s law number three, by the way.”

“You memorized that,” accused Janette.

“Of course. It’s important.”

Janette’s eyes narrowed. “Where did you learn this?”

“I’m writing a paper on it.”

“On stupidity.”

“It’s the least studied element of human behavior.”

“And one of the biggest.”


“Wait. You don’t think I’m stupid, do you?” asked Janette.

“Of course not. You’re one of the smartest people I know.”

That gave Janette a glimmer of reassurance, but it quickly passed. “If there are so many stupid people, even my bosses, then how am I supposed to get ahead?”

“What? Like, succeed?”

“Yeah. The cream’s supposed to rise to the top,” complained Janette.

There was a long pause as Ben pondered the question. His eyes suddenly lit up. “The cream always rises to the top, it’s just sometimes it needs to be beaten to get there.”

Janette slouched. “That’s reassuring.”

“Just remember,” said Ben. “It’s Ben’s First Law of Overcoming Stupidity.”

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Bat Attack


“It’s a bat! It’s a bat!”

Dave woke from a dead sleep with those words ringing in his ears.

Beside the bed Jacqueline was covering her head with a blanket. “Is it in my hair?”

“Crap,” said Dave. He turned on the light just in time to see something swoop through the room and down the hall.

“Where is it?” asked Jacqueline.

“It’s in the hall.” He desperately wished it would go away by itself. The bat flew to the door of his daughter’s bedroom and turned back toward him. It made another lap of his room and back down the hall.

“Wait here.” He grabbed a baseball bat and closed the door behind him.

“No problem,” said Jacqueline.

Dave swung wildly at the bat, smashing the hallway lamp shade. Shards of glass landed all around his bare feet. “Great,” he mumbled.

“What was that?” asked Jacqueline.

“There’s glass everywhere.”

“Did the bat do that?”

“Yes,” said Dave. The bat continued making circles around his head.


“No. That was me. Can you bring me my slippers?”

“Now? Is the bat gone?”


“Can you do without? I don’t wanna come out there,” said Jacqueline.

“I don’t want to cut my feet. Just throw them to me.”

From the behind the door Dave heard a huff. “Fine,” said Jacqueline. A few seconds later two slippers were hurled in Dave’s direction. Dave caught one of them. The other flew past his head just as the bat swerved. The two collided and the bat tumbled to the floor.
“You hit it,” said Dave.

“What?” asked Jacqueline.

“I need a towel,” said Dave. He hopped to the bathroom on one foot.

At that moment, his daughter Becky opened her door, wiping sleep from her eyes. She watched her dad grab a towel, hop down the hall on one foot and throw the towel on the floor.

“I caught it!” he proclaimed.

“You did? Yeah!” cheered Jacqueline. She threw open the door and ran into the hall. Her cheers turned to horror as her bare feet met shards of glass. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

Dave couldn’t decided if he should grab the bat wrapped in the towel or help his wife. He stumbled forward and collided with Jacqueline. They both crashed to the floor.

Becky watched her parents, writhing on the floor. The bat crawled out of the towel and took to the air. It made laps around the heads of the wounded parents. She took a step back in her room. “This house is so weird.”

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Good Flags

When Elliza met up with George at the coffee shop, she found him doodling on napkins.

“What’re you doing?”

George was startled and looked up. “Oh, sorry. Did you say something?”

His question made Eliza frown. “What are you doing?” she demanded.

“I’m designing my flag,” smiled George.

“Say that again?”

“I am designing my flag.”

Eliza sat down across the table and examined his creations. “Why do you need a flag?”

“Why wouldn’t I? It’s something that symbolizes me. It gives me something to rally around. Something to pass down for future generations. Something to drape over my coffin at my funeral.”

Eliza raised an eyebrow. “That really doesn’t answer my question.”

“Hundreds of years ago, families had a coat of arms. Scottish clans still have tartans. Ours is a disconnected and fractured world. I realize I can’t fix all of it, but I can make a flag,” beamed George.

“What does that even mean?”

“It represents me. Bigger than me, even. It becomes my standard, my beacon call to the world,” proclaimed George.

“What’s next, a national anthem?”


Eliza shook her head. She looked at his flags. “Why green, yellow and black?”

George pulled the napkins away from her. “If you must know, they’re important symbols. That’s one of the five vexillological rules of making a flag.”

“There are rules?”

“Only if you want to make a good flag.”

“Alright, humour me,” said Eliza. She crossed her arms and slumped back in her seat. “What do they represent?”
“If you must know, green and gold are my university colours. Gold and black are the colours of my favorite sports team.”

“That kinda makes sense. What about stars? Are you gonna have stars?”

“Nah,” said George. “Rule number one for designing a flag: keep it simple.”

“According to who?”

“The North American Vexillological Association, of course.”

Eliza rolled her eyes. “Of course. Are you actually gonna get this made or are you just bored?”

“Absolutely. I can picture it flying over my house. It’s gonna be beautiful.”

Eliza stared at George’s radiant face as he spoke. She rested her chin in her hands and sighed.

“What? You think I’m crazy?” he asked.

“Worse,” said Eliza. “I’m starting to want my own flag.”

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Power Burning


Sid gave a double take when he saw Vern enter the room. Vern was in obvious pain. His shoulders were hunched, arms extended at his side and he was as rigid as a board. Topping it off, his skin was bright red.

“What happened to you?” asked Sid.

“Went to the lake,” replied Vern.

“You forget sunscreen?”

“Kinda. Phil took me power burning,” explained Vern.

“Should I even ask?”

Vern shuffled to a chair and gingerly sat down. “Phil and I took his aluminum canoe into the middle of the lake and lay there for hours. It was like roasting in an oven.” He whimpered has he leaned back.

Sid stared at the human lobster before him. “Words fail me,” he said.

“I’m never doing that again.”

“Why’d you do it in the first place?”

“Phil said it’d be fun.”

“And you believed him?”

“Why not?”

“It’s called ‘power burning’. The name should be self-explanatory,” said Sid.

“Phil said I shouldn’t knock it ‘til I’ve tried it. It’s an experience.”

“So is rattlesnake kissing and lava surfing. Not every experience is worth having.”

“How would you know unless you tried it?” asked Vern.

Sid choked. “Is that a serious question?”

Phil shrugged. “Yeah.”

At that moment Sid got up and crossed the room. He smacked Vern on the back and smiled at the resulting scream. “Just wanted to help you relive the experience.”

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Sarcasm Font


“There needs to be a sarcasm font,” Ross finally announced. He’d been standing over Horatio, waiting for him to stop working, but grew impatient.

Horatio looked up from his computer screen. “What?”

“There needs to be a font that’s universally understood to be sarcasm.”

“Right. Thanks for sharing,” said Horatio. He resumed his work.

“I posted a comment on Facebook and people blew up. They totally took me seriously.”

Horatio glared up at Ross. “I have no idea why anyone would ever take you seriously.”

“I know, right? People got really mad. A few even unfriended me,” explained Ross.

A sigh crossed Horatio’s lips.

“It was a joke about environmentalists. It was clever, too.”

“If I have a nickel for every environmental joke I knew…” said Horatio.

“They have no sense of humour.”

“Do ya think?”

Ross smacked Horatio on the shoulder. “That’s why I want a sarcasm font, so people know how funny I am.”

Horatio looked up at Ross. “I don’t know if that would help.”

“You’re right,” said Ross. “Some people are just clueless.”

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Organic Tattoos


“So the other day I was at the health food store, right?”

Drew didn’t even turn around from his desk. There was only one person who started conversations that way.

Ethan didn’t wait for a response. “I see this girl with sleeve tattoos. I think to myself, why would you care so much about what you put into your body that you shop at the health food store, but not worry about the chemicals you jammed under your skin?”

It was a question that made Drew stop what he was doing and think. That was an unusual outcome of Ethan’s questions.

“Maybe they’re organic,” suggested Drew.

Ethan clapped his hands. “That’s exactly my point. These are the kinda people who research ingredients to make sure they’re organic, free trade, pesticide and cruelty free, but maybe tattoo ink is organic?” He stressed the word ‘maybe’.

It was at this moment Drew realized how annoying Ethan could be when he actually had a good question.

“I dunno. Ask somebody with tattoos,” Drew said.

“I did. I asked the girl with the sleeve tattoos. She shot me with pepper spray and I got banned from the store.”

“I woulda paid ten bucks to see that,” Drew thought out loud.

“It’s on Youtube. Someone caught the whole thing on video. Wanna see?” asked Ethan.

“Absolutely,” said Drew. Drew spun around and faced Ethan for the first time. There stood Ethan, his face bright red and tears flowing from his eyes.

“When did this happen to you?” asked Drew.

“Ten minutes ago.”

“Shouldn’t you go to the hospital or something?”

“Nah,” said Ethan. “The girl told me the pepper spray is organic, free trade, pesticide and cruelty free, so I’m good.”

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Window Into A Woman’s Soul


Garrett burst in on his girlfriend and spun her around the room.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asked.

“Peg, I’ve solved the greatest mystery of life. My new invention will transform relationships between men and women forever!”

Peg pushed herself away from Garrett and crossed her arms. “Really? How did you do that?”

“Three words: mood changing makeup.”

“Say what now?”

“Mood changing makeup. Women wear it on their face and the colour changes according to their mood. That way men automatically know how women feel. I call it ‘the window into a woman’s soul’. It’s brilliant, right?” proclaimed Garrett.

Peg sighed long and slow. She leaned against a desk. “Can you tell how I’m feeling right now?”

Garrett shrugged. “How would I know? You’re not wearing the makeup right now. Then again, your face just got real red.”

“Any idea what that means?”

Garrett took a minute to study her face. “I’ve got nothing.”

“That’s right,” said Peg. “That that’s all you’re gonna get.”

After the door slammed behind her, Garrett stood alone in the room. He fell into a nearby chair, stunned. “I have no idea what went wrong.”

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