Betsy Shebang - Column for 8/7


Interviewed for position at way hip Burning Man theme camp; was asked meaningless questions (dogs or cats? Boxers or thong?) and met with disapproval for my equally meaningless yet genuine answers. After careful meditation I discovered the problem: these people were very cool.

Cool is an system whereby the world is divided into a series of private organizations, each with a select language, dress code and disdain for non-members. These organizations are arranged in a quantum, whereby individuals can leap from one level to the next.

These quantum layers seem at first to parallel the ages of man; as we age, so we become cool, it would seem. This is not the case. If it were, our streetcorners would be filled with roving packs of disaffected senior citizens experimenting with drugs ("Take a couple of these, Trudy - it'll reduce the swelling!"), showing disdain for outgrown stages of life ("I'm so over parenting") and beating up on the slightly less senior citizens who drop by occasionally to bring meals and sell insurance.

We don't find coolness when we reach the mountaintop; rather, coolness is the thing we have to leave behind when the climbing became steep. This scale, then, should be thought of not as a ladder of progression, but as a thermometer, with the optimal reading coming somewhere between highest and lowest.

The levels are as follows, in descending order:


15) Perfect Zen Aloofness - exhibiting neither inhibition nor enthusiasm toward anything

14) Unable to find any activity worth doing; occasionally eats when not in public

13) Participates in potentially fatal art project, and/or owns waist-high car

12) Able to pay own bills

11) Does neato artwork to unjustly modest audience

10) Able to dance without attracting attention

9) Able to speak complete sentence to member of opposite sex

8) Plays air guitar while listening to walkman in public

7) Makes fun of other, less charismatic Dungeons & Dragons convention attendees

6) Able to fart at will

5) Listens to Doctor Demento

4) Owns a lite-brite

3) Parents' favorite among siblings

2) Able to write own name

1) Resemble specific relative


This is a very general chart, of course; it rates neither "sings Christmas carols" nor "takes active interest in multi-level marketing".

So, as you travel up the mountain of life, Ladies and gentlemen, please remember three things:

1) Whatever it is that makes you cool to those below you only makes you uncool to those above you.

2) Shoot for #12 on the cool-o-meter, and aim no higher.

3) Don't trust anyone who's never played air guitar.

Columns by Betsy Shebang