So many stupid remarks

As usual, Jeff and Matt heard more than they said.  At the Louvre, Paris, September 2005

As usual, Jeff and Matt heard more than they said. At the Louvre, Paris, September 2005

“Surely nothing has to listen to so many stupid remarks as a painting in a museum.”
Edmond & Jules de Goncourt

When I read this quote, I laughed.  Then I wanted to talk back to it.  “Oh yeah? Try being a parent at an IEP meeting.”  But I realize that’s a fairly esoteric thing to say.  So I thought of other examples.  What about:

  • a gorilla at the zoo?
  • a judge at traffic court?
  • a middle school vice principal in charge of student conduct?
  • a mother with a screaming toddler?
  • anyone listening to a sports event’s “color commentator?” (You know, the ones who make immortal observations such as “this is a situation where they really need a hit” with the score tied and bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.)

Admittedly, the Goncourt brothers came up with an interesting angle here, but let’s have fun with it.  We all have to put up with stupid remarks occasionally, and sometimes we make them ourselves.  Who (or what) do you suppose draws the most stupid comments?  What are some classics you’ve heard (or said)?  Sometimes, the best way to defeat despair is to shrug your shoulders, shake your head and laugh!


  1. Here’s a variation – a stupid question: can you ameliorate the effects of esotericism, and tell us what an IEP meeting is? btw – ‘stupid’ is a word to be eschewed in our modern, public education system, much like the words ‘gun’ or ‘fishing’ .-(

    • What’s an IEP! Let’s see, how much time have you got? Suffice it to say that the IEP, as with so much well-intended government paperwork, often ends up being a tail-wagging-the-dog travesty that is a bane to parents as well as school staff, though for different reasons. Here’s a sample “stupid remark” from an IEP meeting: “Here is a copy of your rights (huge, many-paged document); can you sign here that you have received it?” when all knew I had DOZENS of copies of my rights and in fact, practically had them memorized. Since many schools (fearing lawsuits) call an IEP meeting for the slightest change to a student’s program, I usually ended up at several of these meetings every year, and finally started bringing in my copies of parental rights and giving it back to them to re-distribute to other parents, just to keep from wasting all that paper. It got to be a joke; when they would present me with a copy of my rights, I would present them with 5 copies to re-distribute and we’d all have a big laugh. The one problem is that there were very minor changes continually being made to the rights, rendering all past copies obsolete, and necessitating more copies to be made for future IEP meetings. Can you say “bureaucratic nonsense?” Your tax dollars at work! But if you still have your copy of Changed by a Child, you can read a far less benign explanation of what these meetings do to parents in the entries about school meetings. Don’t have my copy handy, but I can tell you the page number next time I’m in York County.

      • Thanks for the explanation (I had plenty of time, sitting like a “fool on a hill”, at about 2500 feet elevation, gazing across at a 3800 foot peak – beautiful, crisp morning!)

        • I can’t match your vista, but at least I do have a lovely view of sunlight dancing on our downstairs patio, with a background of still-mostly-green trees bordering a tiny creek. Could be worse.

  2. More “S” word questions: Can you listen to the play-by-play commentator without listening to the color commentator? Why would a gorilla go to a zoo, in the first place? Why did the chicken cross the road?

    • OK, I’ll take them in reverse order. Re: chicken crossing the road, see the best explanation here. Re: the gorilla, I have never personally known of a gorilla choosing to go to the zoo. They are normally taken there against their will, as one can infer from their disdainful, slightly furious expressions. Re: play-by-play w/o color man: it was in Sports Appreciation 101 (a course designed for highly clumsy non-athletes such as myself to get a “freebie” P.E. credit, back in the days when colleges required many PE credits for all students) my instructor first explained to us what a color man was. I had noticed that there was never just one TV sports announcer (unlike baseball radio broadcasts, where Milo Hamilton or Harry Cary et al went solo). I did not realize these men actually had different titles and roles. Since I don’t ever watch TV anymore, I don’t know whether it’s possible to block out the “color man” comments in favor of the play-by-play. Based on Jeff’s practice of not even really watching the games except to check scores (he is usually reading the paper while they are on), I assume it’s not only possible, but advisable.

      • As Mr. Spock would say, laconically, “Fascinating.”

  3. Sheila

    Traveling with children years ago, I still remember (on the outskirts of town), “How much longer?” and “Are we almost there?” and “When are we going to be there?” . Many times, since those long ago years and now that those two little girls are grown, I’ve heard those sweet, back seat voices and SMILED! Hope all goes well today.

    • Sheila, I have to plead guilty on that one; my siblings and I endured many pre-interstate-highway trips from Atlanta to North Alabama, where there was no commercial airline service near our destination. These 5-hour trips (with four of us sharing the back seat) did have bright spots, since many of our running family jokes happened en route (cue for Eric to mention the legendary incident in Douglasville, Georgia and Daddy’s hilarious take on the 173rd repetition of the story). When we tired of endless “Find the ABCs” games and “Find the state license plate” games and “100 bottles of beer on the wall” songs, I’m sure we asked these time-honored childhood questions dozens, maybe hundreds of times! Contrary to what people tend to think, these “are we there yet” questions do not suggest that the kids really have the illusion they might be there; rather, it’s their sophisticated way of saying, “Does anyone in the front seat think this is BEYOND RIDICULOUS???” I have often wondered whether the advent of individually-controlled DVD players has put a stop to this seemingly universal custom. Isn’t it funny how many of these formerly irritating things are FUNNY when we look back on them? Thanks for bringing a smile to my face with fond memories!

      • Yep. That’s where the old lady got her foot run over. (Dad, snarled, in irritation of the repeated words: “Even the old lady no longer remembers that!”

        • Conversation taking place more than TEN YEARS after the event was witnessed:

          Eric, Al, Julia in chorus (Al being literally an infant when it happened): Here’s where the old lady got her foot run over!
          Carla: I bet not many people remember that!
          Carlyle: (snarling) I bet not even the old lady herself remembers it!

          I think it would be accurate to say that we never, ever passed that spot with out verbally commemorating an incident I could hardly remember.

      • Sheila

        Julia, you poor children must have thought you were being PUNISHED to be driving instead of flying. I’m laughing about “the old lady got her foot run over” and I don’t even know the story. What a landmark! I really hope Daddy Carlyle reads this today.

        • Sheila, I can barely remember it (and Eric may have to correct me) but in the”downtown area” of Douglasville, GA, we witnessed an elderly lady crossing the street and an impatient driver’s car running over her foot as she was crossing. I don’t know if I’m imagining this part, but I seem to remember Eric saying “she looked like she was angry and cussing” as she hobbled the rest of the way across the street. From then on, we have never forgotten that incident. If she had not been able to finish crossing the street, it might have been far more tragic a memory than we have kept alive all these years. Eric, can you embellis— er, ELABORATE on this memory? I don’t think I was more than 3 or 4 years old at the time…

      • Re:Are we there yet? The Hutto’s funny story is on Andy…After driving approx. 15 hours to get to Madrid, Iowa Andy asked, “Are we going home today?” Bless his little heart!

        • Carla, at the risk of sounding terribly tacky, what this means is that when you go to visit people, YOU SHOULD STAY LONGER!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Women speaking in a louder-than-normal voice on her cell phone, “Hold on. I can’t hear you. I’m at the library and it’s too loud in here.” (Two teenagers happened to pass by her at that moment – whispering to each other.) I laughed out loud when I heard her comment.

    • Barb, that is hysterical! It reminds me of the old Yogi Berra quote – “This place is too crowded – no wonder nobody comes here anymore.” 🙂 Thanks for the comic relief! 🙂 Hope you and your family are doing well!

  5. Mike Bertoglio

    I shudder to think what the El Greco heard on my recent visit to the MET. My favorite painting of all time “Christ carrying the Cross.”
    Joel Osteen would say to defeat despair you need some I am statements to program into your psyche- I am happy, I am confident, I am joyfull, I am ecstatic, I am blessed-too blessed to be stressed, I am loyal, I am competent, I am positive, I am passionate. Is this the modern day Dr.Vincent Peale. I guess so.
    I agree with him, but there is also a time to weep and the more homeopathic approach where we sometimes do walk the dark valleys from time in hope we will eventually walk out of the valley. Swing low sweet chariot.

    • Mike, I’ve never read Joel Osteen, but I have been completely biased against him by people who gnash their teeth and rend their garments over what they perceive as his “righteousness leads to riches” take on things. If one defines riches properly (not related to material wealth) I have no problem with it, but I would shudder to think that anyone believes my little blog is trying to say that the road of life — ANYONE’s road — is easy if we do and say the right things. Not so! I wonder whether Osteen focuses on the final chapters of Job more than the first 90% of the book? If so, IMO he would be missing the point. YES there is absolutely a time to weep, and we must cling to the promise of joy in the morning. Swing low sweet chariot – a perfect image! What would Joel think of this statement: “I AM waiting for it ‘coming for to carry me home.'”

      • I sent Joel Steen $20, and Obama gave me a free cell phone, and a check for $5000! 😉

        • I stand corrected. Where do I sign up?

      • George refers to it as the James Brown gospel…”I feel good”!

        • This is probably a terrible thing to admit, but I can’t hear James Brown’s name anymore without thinking about Eddie Murphy’s hilarious parody of him…

  6. Megan

    a pregnant woman! e.g.., “not due until July?! he is going to be huge!!” (Um, thank you?) OR “the way you are carrying, it is definitely a girl” OR “better sleep now!” (I’ll do my best!) …and many more!!!

    • Yes, there’s something about being pregnant that seems to suggest one has “say anything to me! anything at all!” tattooed on one’s forehead. On the plus side, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the receiving end of so much gallant behavior. When I was 5 months pregnant with Drew and BARELY showing at all, I took a red-eye flight from LAX back to MEM (long story) and the flight attendants immediately ordered the passengers to clear one of those long middle rows of seats so I could lie down the whole way back. Another time I asked a subway attendant if there was a restroom nearby – he took one look at me and said “not normally, but for you there is!” and led me to the employee’s washroom, behind locked doors. Few things are so universal, yet universally fascinating, as the thought of new life in formation.

  7. Mike Bertoglio

    Did you happen to catch NPR interview on new Bio of Jack London? He had a quote you might like.’ We are called to live and not just to exist.’ Something like that. He was often put down as just a “writer of dog stories,” but what a genius IMO.
    I will donate to Joel on my next paycheck which may take a while.

    • No, Mike, I missed that…maybe I can get the podcast; NPR is pretty good about podcasting their episodes. I have read little to no works of Jack London, but I know he has many, many admirers, and even the sometimes-snooty East Bay crowd (in SFO) gives him his literary due. Hey, why don’t you send Joel just a dollar and keep repeating, “I am lucky with minimal investments.” 🙂

      • Sweet, little, old ladies don’t cuss. Sadly, the lady who hobbled on across the road, after having had her foot run over, was “yelping” in a high-pitched voice. It was really quite tragic. Those who flock to Graceland (I am speculating because I have never been on the tour) are probably told: “Yes ma’am, that’s where Elvis sat down for the last time.”

        • I never realized we commemorated that incident because it was tragic. I obviously have it confused with this video. It was 1983 the first and last time I toured Graceland, but at that time, they did not take people into the room you are referring to. You must be thinking of Prince Mongo’s yard.

      • Seriously, Julia – check out a book of short stories by Jack London. At least read “To Build a Fire” – it is a masterpiece! You may even gain something of a metaphorical nature, also.

        • When I wrote “little to no” I had a dim memory of having read something by London back in high school…I think you just identified it. If it’s the story I’m thinking of, the ending is rather unforgettable.

  8. Carolyn

    Hi Julia, this may not be stupid but boy did I get a good laugh from this statement. This is from my granddaughter Emma, traveling from California to Tenn. with her and Jennifer. She is in back seat and Jennifer and I are just talking and out of the blue came this statement, shut up, I can’t take it any more. I was shocked and just looked at Jennifer waiting to hear what she was going to say or do. Emma was listening to music on her I pod. and that she was singing with the music. She look up at us and wanted to know what was so funny. You all have a great week-end.

    • Carolyn, I think that is funny, too. People never realize how they sound when they’re wearing headsets. Sometimes I will sing along while I’m walking and listening to my headset, but I’ve learned to be quiet when I pass people because of the funny looks I get. I told Jeff, now that everyone is wearing a Bluetooth earpiece, you can’t tell who has schizophrenia anymore. Now when I see people walking along talking to themselves, I assume they are on a phone call! Have a great weekend.

  9. merry

    Ahhh….interesting blog. And comments. ~:}

    • Thanks, Merry – I’m happy you enjoyed it!

  10. That’s a funny quote for sure, good one Julia. The guy who rammed into the back of my old car at an intersection when the light was red, said to me, “your signal was on, I thought you were going”. Dah! I reminded him that, “red means STOP, not rush ahead of the oncoming traffic”. I wasn’t nice that day 😀

    • I wouldn’t have been nice about it, either! So many people seem to think that a red light means “you might want to stop, if you have nothing better to do.” In Memphis I used to say that when the left turn arrow turned red, people seemed to think that meant that only the next 5 cars in line could go! :-). I’m glad you were not injured, and that the car was old…although that might have meant it got totaled, and a good old car is impossible to replace!

  11. Oh No, I wasn’t hurt. He was in a giant pickup truck and I was in a Honda sedan, so his bumper hit my trunk and made a dent. I took down his plate and insurance info and visited a Police shop. Turns out the plate didn’t match the vehicle and was probably stolen. The police were to follow up but never did call. I tried to call them but couldn’t get any help. Just a hassle really. We used the car as a trade in on my PT Cruiser, which I also just sold. We really don’t need two cars living downtown.

    • I agree, downtown cars are more of a hassle than anything. There’s a little town called Peachtree City, near where my parents live, and a great many of its residents drive golf carts everywhere! There are little roadways for them and everything. I told Jeff I’d love to live somewhere that I either could walk everywhere, or drive one of those golf carts!

      • Oh fantastic, me too! We could trick up our carts and personalize them. I’d like a sparkly aqua one with flowers painted on it like a vintage hippie mobile/cart. LOL. What a great idea for a community 😀

        • Here’s more about it. I would almost move to Peachtree City for that reason alone! I could have a bright yellow golf cart, or teal green. We could establish a “Boomdeeville South” neighborhood, and pets would be a requirement of living there! Also maybe I could talk Trader Joe’s into letting me operate a franchise there, which would pay for everything else! 🙂

          • I LOVE that place! I just spent 45 minutes looking thru real estate listings LOL. You can sure get a nice home at half of what we pay here for an old fixer upper. CRAZY!
            “Boomdeeville South” has a good ring to it LOL. We don’t have a Trader Joe’s here. We don’t have a Container Store either and I love them. I can totally see you zipping around in a bright yellow golf cart 😀 Beep Beep! I think I’ll put an “ah-oogga” horn on mine 😀

            • Hey that sounds great! I can just hear people whispering “There goes Boomdee herself, listen to that horn!” and “No, no, she did not name herself after the NEIGHBORHOOD – the NEIGHBORHOOD is named after her! She has all these rich Canadian relatives!” 🙂 Seriously, it is really amazing how much real estate prices vary from place to place. It’s very tempting to think of retiring to someplace where you could buy a nice home with just the equity currently in a mortgaged home. But of course, there are other factors. Still, just think how much cheaper it must be to go everywhere by bike, foot, or golf cart!

  12. Sheila

    I’m glad I came back this morning to read a few more comments. Y’all are having way too much fun! Sounds like you’re dreaming up the DREAM neighborhood. I can hear “Walking On Sunshine” in the background. We have our RETRO golf cart at Willow Tree and it just happens to be a ’57 Chevy and the color is Bel Air Blue, i.e.,Turquoise. Thanks for letting me chime in. 🙂

    • Sheila, you are the ideal resident for “Boomdeeville South.” We’ll let you in on the ground floor when we first draw up the plans. We will have to plan for a community center with a “Tea Room” and a craft room! Maybe Boomdee will teach us how to make those beautiful paper roses. Meanwhile you can read some of her awesome craft tutorials on her blog. WOW, a car almost as old as I am! You and Bill are full of surprises! Thanks for starting my day on a fun note!

      • Sheila

        Julia, ideal “Senior” resident?? 🙂 I have been to Boomdeeadda and it really is a noun and a verb and DELIGHTFUL. She is awesome, as are you! Thank you for the tutorial. Blessings this beautiful Sunday.

        • Sheila, Boomdeeville South will be MOSTLY “Senior” residents or as I prefer to think of it, “Vintage Experts.” 🙂 We have a lovely sunny autumn day here – hope you do too!


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