People are really good at making excuses, and most of the time we know they're lies. For example, I told Jack O'Brien that this column was three days late because my dog ate my home. (That's not a typo; I just get really overzealous when I lie.)
"Yes, Jack, my dog is 200 feet long. What's the matter? Never read Clifford?"
But sometimes our excuses are so good that we even convince ourselves: We see a problem, make an excuse for it, and forget about the problem. But the problem still exists. More specifically, it's like we think that merely identifying our failings provides a reason to do nothing about it. Here are five excuses that don't excuse anything at all.
5 "That Was Before My Time"
Any time people are caught not knowing something that other people think they should, they reply, "Oh, well that was before my time." What does that mean? Isn't most of Western literature before our time? Isn't the majority of all music and film ever made before our time? "Before my time" is not a one-size-fits-all excuse justifying any form of ignorance.
" Moby WHAT??? That can't be the real name of the book! Before my time, dude."
Not only that, but people say this even when the unknown reference is also before the speaker's time. I might be Cracked's oldest and most sexually gifted columnist, but the Beatles were before my time, too. So were Woody Allen's funniest movies, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Thelonious Monk, Robert Johnson, Oscar Wilde, John Keats, and William Shakespeare. If "before my time" were an acceptable response, you could write it as the answer to every question on your next history exam.
Yeah, if some weirdo asks if you remember some McDonald's commercial from 1972, feel free to mention that you're only 22 and not prone to studying useless bits of data from ugly decades, but there is no expiration date on facts and art that deserve to be in your head.
4 "Oh, Well, I Don't Read the Papers"
Variations on this include "I don't watch the news," "I don't follow current events," and "I don't know what's going on in the world at all in any way." I get it. I really do. There are so many reasons not to keep up with current events. I have two jobs, three kids, and four co-workers constantly IMing me to help them add jokes to their otherwise lackluster articles.
Actually, they're all just Adam Tod Brown, but sometimes he uses a funny voice and mustache.
The point is, I understand being busy, and I'm the first to admit that I don't follow current events nearly as closely as I should, but here's the thing: I know that's a problem. I know I'm not making time to be an educated and involved person. When someone mentions some international crisis or important piece of legislation and I don't know what they're talking about, do you know what I do? I feel ashamed. That's an OK feeling to have. It might inspire you to read and learn, but even if it doesn't, it's better than proclaiming that you simply don't care about such things. Or do you think there are no events in the world worth caring and knowing about?