5 Popular Excuses That Are Totally Meaningless
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.
"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.
"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?
"I'm Too Selfish to Be a Parent"
Not everyone was cut out to be a parent. Some people are angry, some are loveless, some are Ann Coulter.
Aww, don't cry, Ann. Your dark lord and master frowns upon crybabies.
I don't think everyone needs to be a parent. I don't think parents are better than people without kids. And it's true, some people are simply too selfish to ever be good parents. But here's the thing: If you're so selfish that you can't conceivably care for a child, then not having kids doesn't really solve the problem. Don't get me wrong: I'm super happy that you're self-aware enough not to procreate, but I'm guessing you're still kind of a selfish, shitty person. Or are you only incapable of not being selfish to life forms that are smaller than you?
See, if this thing were fully grown, I could probably not be a completely selfish prick, but at this size, no, not happening.
This excuse is like saying, "Oh, I smell far too bad to ever go to a fancy restaurant." Yes, I'm happy that your stank ass will never be sitting next to me at some expensive anniversary dinner, but at the same time, maybe look into, y'know, not smelling so bad.
"I Don't Trust Myself to Own a Gun"
(I can't bear to be misunderstood on this topic, so let me just say that this entry has nothing to do with the shattering events in Connecticut. It's not my attempt to be timely or "funny" about tragedy. It was written prior to those events. It's also not meant to be a catalyst for a debate about gun control in the comments.)
Several times, I've heard people say, "Oh, I don't trust myself to own a gun." They're not talking about being clumsy or accidentally capping the dog during a shotgun cleaning; they're talking about their anger-management issues. They're saying that they are such uncontrolled bottles of rage that they don't trust themselves to own a weapon without murdering someone.
"Yes, I just acknowledged that not having a certain possession is the only thing keeping me from homicide. What's the problem?"
Yes, I'm super glad that there are rageaholics who don't own guns. Still, not buying a gun does not solve the problem. Do you hear yourselves? You're scared that the only thing keeping you from murder is not owning a murder weapon. So yeah, it's a good idea to keep suicidal patients away from straight razors, but that's not the end of the therapy.
"I Don't Like Conflict"
Some people avoid confrontation because they "don't like conflict." That's a big excuse in the comments every time I've ever written about the value of debate and argument. But this statement implies that anyone willing to engage in a confrontation must enjoy conflict. Not true. Know who hates conflict? Me. I absolutely cannot stand conflict. It gives me a sick feeling of dread.
But there are a lot of things that don't feel good that need to be done: going to the dentist, getting chemotherapy, telling Soren Bowie he's the "prettiest boy in the land" so he'll come out of his After Hours trailer and not ruin the big shoot. Not enjoying something isn't always an excuse, is my point.
"Where's my beautiful man? Come out of the trailer, baby."
Like I said, I hate conflict, but I hate what happens by avoiding it more. If you run away from conflict, some sort of injustice will occur. It could be something small and inconsequential, or it could be big. So it's not the biggest deal in the world if a waitress brings you the wrong food and you eat it anyway because you don't like conflict. But what about when they bring your kid the wrong food? Are you going to make Junior eat it because you don't like that squiggly feeling in your tummy when you and a stranger disagree? What if it's something worse than a botched order? What if someone actually means to do you harm, or at the very least take advantage of you?
Saying that you "don't like conflict" is an invitation to the world to behave badly knowing that you won't get in its way. It works the same for little old ladies trying to cut you in line at the bakery or dictators imposing their will on the masses. It just requires passivity. No one except the worst people in the world actually enjoys conflict, but there is no shortage of scenarios when it's required.
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