Smarty Pants

Just finished a book called “The Know-It-All” about a guy who sets out to become the smartest person on the planet by reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z.   He fails.  Not in his reading but in his quest.  Because that’s not how to do it.


How do I know that?  Because I was a know-it-all myself once.  Names I had when I was younger: Smarty pants (earlier grades); Clear university material (grade three teacher); Know-it-all (higher grades); The Brain.


What would I be called now?  Large Bodied?  Big Boned?  I’ve gone from brains to bones in forty years.  As I get older, I have to use Google more and more.   Things that were in the old lumber-room that was my memory, seem to have dropped out of it.  I am a know-it-all no more.


I still have some bad know-it-all habits though:  Dropping useless bits of information that I happen to know into any discussion; going on and on when a topic I am interested in comes up.   If you want to know more about know-it-alls just send me an e-mail and I’ll expound at length.


It took me a long time to understand that when someone asks “How are you and how’s your family?”  It doesn’t mean they want a blow by blow description, an analysis of your various health issues, or a full report of everything you read on the internet about your latest disease.   Unless I haven’t seen someone for a very long time my answer nowadays is “Fine, thanks.  How are you?”


Once when I was teenager working at a summer camp and knew it all, at least school stuff, I ended up with a group of girls in their cabin.   After a half hour of banter when I was somehow very amusing, the eldest of the girls, from Texas, asked me to come next door to her private cabin.   I agreed and she took my hand leading me out.  I smiled awkwardly at everyone else and was mystified by the sudden silence that had descended.


When I entered the older girl’s cabin, she lay down on her bed.  I found myself  alone with a sultry girl who was lying on her bunk like the clothed Maja (look it up!), giving  me a smoldering look when she asked me about being Jewish.  This was my downfall.   I spent the next two hours explaining to her the details of Jewish history and religion while her sultry look and those heavy eye lids got heavier and heavier.   When she finally fell asleep I tiptoed out of her cabin and wondered whether I had perhaps given her too many details.


Imagine my embarrassment the next day when all the girls I worked with in the kitchen wanted to know what I had done when I was alone with this apparently sexy girl.  When I explained that we had discussed Judaism, they at first looked at me in shock, their jaws open.  Finally one of them burst out laughing and they all joined in.

They came up to me and punched me in the arm, “Good one, Rube, good one!  What a joker!  What a polite Canadian!”


I had no idea what they were talking about so I smiled like Mona Lisa.   After that I suddenly found myself with the reputation of a lady’s man.


See?  Not all knowledge can be found in a book.   Not even the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Not even the latest edition.


But I still think there may be something to it all.    So instead, I plan on reading and comparing the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Canadian Dictionary.  That way, while I won’t know everything, I’ll at least know what it means to be a Canadian.


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