|March 19, 2001||
Dear Sir Charles,
I never herd of you, but my brothers freind, who knows alot about computers, said you had an opinion on everything. Anyway, heres my problem.
Im a senior at Benedict Arnold High here in Evanston, Illinois. Maybe you heard of my school we won State in Division 6A football three years in a row! Go, Patriots! Trouble is, I got this essay due in Honors World History in a couple of days, and I dont know what to do. Coach asigned the question, which had a greater affect on World History, the American Revolution, or the French Revolution?
I always figured the American Revolution was the most important event in history, except maybe the time the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl back in '85. Anyway, in the American revolution, the greatest country in history was formed, and besides, we kicked those dumbass comunist red coats from Russia or wherever all the way up to Canada, and they never messed with us again! But on the other hand, in France, the Queen gave the peasants cake, but I guess that wasn't enough, so they took that guiloteen and chopped her head off. The Kings head, too. That must have been pretty important, dont you think, even though it hapened in France?
So what should I say in my essay? Im running straight A's here, am quarterback on the football team (one time, when we played Wilmette High, I scored three touchdowns in a single game), and got a good shot at getting into a good college football program, so I don't want to blow this essay by saying something stupid. Please tel me what to say!
Confused in Evanston, Illinois
Sir Charles replies:
Gracious, no! We wouldn't want the correspondent ever to say anything that might possibly be misconstrued as stupid After all, if the correspondent never got his football scholarship to a state college, how would the college town's judicial system survive, without all those fines for your eventual drunken operation of a motor vehicle and the bribes to keep quiet about a certain rendezvous with the sheriff's underaged daughter? Heaven forfend!
You are lucky, dear boy, to have Sir Charles Grandiose on your side. It's obvious that 'Coach' is attempting to weed out the grain from the chaff. Which will you be, lad? That's right! Grain! (It's the stuff from which bread is made. You know, the brown thing that keeps your 'Big Mac' together.)
'Coach' is obviously looking for the one student in his class--you, lad!--who can see through his transparent stratagems. His question about the American and French revolutions? Patently a ploy! For you and I both know, lad, that the greatest historical revolution was that of Humankind against the Aliens.
Yes! Do you not remember the day, my boy, when the giant alien spaceships, each miles long, hovered over New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.? Oh, the apprehension. Oh, the fear. And remember, lad, how a fighter pilot, a scientist, and the American President teamed together in the desert to kick some alien 'booty,' triumphing in the end? What a fateful Independence Day that was.
Obviously your coach is hoping that your dull-witted classmates will write dreary essays about the American Revolution. Tea parties, Waterloo, and all that. But you--you, lad!--will rise above it and write your essay the way it was meant to be written.
Destiny is in your hands, my young friend. Wilt thou rise and seize it?
Cackling to himself, one remains,
Dear Sir Charles,
This is so exciting. I've never had the opportunity to actually contact anyone quite as important or as famous as yourself.
As a recent addition to your phalanx of devoted admirers (fans sounds so common), I have gone back and read everything in the archives to make certain that you haven't been asked this question previously (I can't believe I'm the first to ask -- perhaps your modesty has prevented you from answering sooner). Nonetheless, seeing no reference to it, I shall ask (if it's not too impertinent): What incredible service did you perform for Great Britain that led to our Queen (if indeed it was she and not her blessed father) to admit you into the knighthood?
Perhaps you could tell your devoted supplicants a little about the ceremony itself? I've heard it's very moving.
Tentative in Tiddleshire
Sir Charles replies:
Poor, ignorant soul,
Were it not that the correspondent had liberally flattered oneself--and to be frank, one enjoys such praise immoderately--one's condemnation would be sure and swift. To assume that one is a mere knight! One is still aghast at such a faus pox!
One is a baronet. A title of privilege, of honour, of distinction. Why, anyone can be a knight--even that rubbishy 'little tramp' Charlie Chopin! On the ladder of peerage, a baronetcy is a 'rung up' from a mere knighthood. But oh, what a rung!
As for the 'ceremony', one will merely state that a baronetcy is hereditary, and thus the ritual went something like this:
The scene: The Grand Salon of Dining, Blandsdown. MATER, one's own mother, sits at the foot of the table. ONESELF is enjoying pheasant at one's place, while YOUNGER BROTHER is casting already dissipated glances of interest at ELSIE, the serving maid. GROSVENOR, the parlourmaid, enters.
GROSVENOR: Begging your pardon, mum, but Sir Teddy, he's dead, mum. Someone slipped a toaster in his bath.
MATER: Thank you, Grosvenor. That will be all.
ELSIE (bursting into tears): Who would do such a wicked, wicked thing?!
MATER: That will be all, Elsie. You are dismissed from our employ. Pack your things and go. I will not have unpleasantness during meals. (ELSIE runs from room.)
ONESELF: One supposes that I must assume the grave mantel of responsibility for the health, well-being, and fortune of this illustrious family, so rich in history and refined breeding, eh, Mater?
YOUNGER BROTHER (cheerfully): Not good about the Pater, eh?
MATER: Now now, son. Your father died happy, I am sure. He always did like his toast well done!
(A delicate chuckle all around)
With that rare glance into the family life of one's early years, one remains,
Dear Sir Charles,
Last evening one attended the theatre and had the misfortune to sit in front of a family that obviously had mistaken live theatre for the cinema, as they began snacking upon a confection they called 'gummy bears.'
Apparently there was but a single box of this delicacy for a family of four, and the box rattled each time it was passed among the group. Not only did they eat this confection rather noisily, but they discussed at length the problems of it sticking to teeth (from the tooth-sucking and lip-smacking sounds behind one, one dared not turn around, you may be sure!) and the fact that all three female members of the family had one or more artificial teeth (the mother proudly noted that she had three sets of bridgework. One supposes she had an everyday set, a Sunday set, and . . . no, one will not suppose when the other set might be used).
A few moments after the play began, the family's conversation was cut short, as--thankfully--the actors were more skilled in projection than were the family members. However the box-passing and gummy bear ingesting continued. Following intermission, they switched their confectionery preference to peppermints (which had the advantage of not sticking to teeth, thereby curtailing certain topics of conversation).
So disgusted was one by the family's confectionery consumption, that one almost commended the man sucking quietly on a toothpick in the row in front of one on his exceptional manners.
Tell me, Sir Charles, is there any hope for civilization?
Retching in Roanoke
Sir Charles replies:
No, there is not.
Modern critics might decry such a declamation, but one suspects they know it is true, in their hearts. One has only to overhear snippets of conversation at every restaurant or public place to know that we are in an irreversible decline. 'When I was a girl,' they begin, or 'When I was a lad. . . .' The sentence generally ends with a phrase such as 'my parents would never have let me scream that way in public without shushing me' or 'we never wore dungarees with the waistline below the buttocks so that our underwear was exposed to view' or 'we never ate without separate shrimp-forks!'
Public manners have eroded to such an extent that even in places such as the opera and the theatre we are subjected to listening to comments our seat-neighbours would commonly make in the privacy of their own dens. But Reader, do not give in, however great the temptation. Do not let your baser impulses to bash in the skulls of these loutish barbarians overtake you. Summon the ushers. Those torches of theirs are much more suitable for head-smashing.
Wishing the reader forbearance and patience, one remains,
My Dear Sir,
I belong to CSI (Children, Schmildren! International), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the image of the childfree-by-choice adult. Here at CSI, we believe that, with global population rising and natural resources diminishing, it is no longer healthy to view the voluntarily childless as selfish, hedonistic, child-haters who can sleep as late as they like on Saturday mornings. Our goal of bringing population growth to a screeching halt would be far better served by promoting the childfree lifestyle as one of noble self-sacrifice for the good of all humanity. (Far more so than it would be by pointing out that the childfree get to keep all the good toys for themselves, as one former member suggested.)
Our group's vision statement is, "If we just appeal to people's better natures, our cause will surely gain in popularity!" To that end we are soliciting celebrity spokespersons to appear in a series of internationally televised commercials, in addition to making a few appearances on some of the more tasteful talk shows and allowing one's photograph to be used in a series of promotional pamphlets.
You have probably already guessed what I am driving at--yes, the family Grandiose are among our first choices for spokespersons! As dedicated readers of your column, we know that you and the Lady Felicia have chosen not to reproduce--and we are most grateful for that decision--and we feel that having such distinguished personages as yourselves will lend dignity and--dare I say it?--class to our cause. We can afford no monetary reimbursement, of course, but we know that the warm glow in the cockles of your hearts will more than repay your efforts. My group is eagerly awaiting your answer.
Sir Charles replies:
One's cockles are not already so much glowing, as scorching with a furious fire at such praise. The Lady Felicia and oneself are, of course, delighted to lend what cachet we can to your cause. A note, though. We do not do 'The Talk Show.'
Of course, one is already brimming with suggestions. For example, one envisions a campaign highlighting famous personalities whose lives would have been better off had they not procreated. Or famous personalities who ought not to procreate. Mr Bill Gates comes immediately to mind. And poor Mr Rex. Who knew that his little Oeddie would turn against him?
So grateful to have all the best toys, one remains,