Let’s face it, sometimes stupid is funny. It’s fun to laugh at yourself or friends when smart people do dumb things – contradiction is the soul of humor, right? There’s sort of a sliding scale on what is entertaining, though, running the gamut (for my, anyway) all the way from hilarious to irritating to downright stunning.
Come to think of it, it really comes down to how much the stupidity in question inconveniences me.
Like I said, I do think it’s funny when smart people have brief spells of cluelessness. When my team and I were in Minneapolis back in April, we went for juicy lucies at a restaurant called the 5-8 Club. As we were piling out of cars and assembling in the parking lot, one of my teammates observed that there was a four-year-old climbing around on the hood of a car. Dumbfounded that she was left alone to do that, he started taking pictures of her. He was oblivious to the woman sitting in the driver’s seat, growing angrier by the *snap*, or the couple of restaurant employees standing nearby on a smoke break and watching him with undisguised suspicion. Of course, the rest of us saw all of this, but we decided to see what happened.
At least Rob only received burning looks. I have a long history of doing dumb stuff, much of which results in actual pyrotechnics. I’m just lucky that none of my reinterpretations on classical common sense have resulted in a Darwin award. Nothing like the story my dad swears to, in which he had a childhood acquaintance who liked to drop matches into a gasoline can. Reality came along and, in the immortal words of Henry VIII, made that genius a head shorter.
I laugh at incidents (well, not that last one) that remind me of Christopher Titus, when he tells the story about crawling under his car, which he’d jacked up on a sharply-sloped driveway. Whenever he did something stupid, his dad would forestall anyone interfering with, “Wait, wait …” And then when the inevitable did come to pass, he’d stand over a newly-injured Titus, pour beer on him, and either call him a wussy or ask, “Not going to do that again, are you?”
You might say it’s mean to find hilarity in people learning non-fatal lessons. I prefer to view it as a giddy enthusiasm for the acquisition of knowledge.
But there are some forms of Stupid that, as they say, you can’t fix. People who are congenitally incapable of learning lessons.
Enter today’s contestant number one: Lebain Preston, of Alabama. In 1992, Lebain — “Bain,” to his friends — was arrested for stealing $30 and a six-pack from a gas station, at knifepoint. He spent 16 years in prison. So where did this past March find Bain? Running from a gas station that he’d knocked off with a box cutter, to the tune of $40 and a 12-pack.
I have this image of him walking the yard for those 16 years with some elderly inmate telling him to “get busy living or get busy dying.” Dreaming of the truly Big Score, giving steely looks to the bulls and curling his lip contempuously when some bleeding heart made noises about “rehabilitating” him. But Bain, $40 doesn’t even take inflation into account. I hope he at least chugged the beer before they came and drug him away.
What I do know is that at some point, he had a chance to update his MySpace page. I know because I got curious and looked, and of course, his page isn’t private. The only photoshopping in the picture above is that helpful red arrow. My whimsical check on MySpace vaulted this guy from one more character on a police blotter to Captain Irony. My favorite part? His playlist has only one song on it: Alicia Keys, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.” I wish I were clever enough to make that up.
Then, there are forms of stupid that shouldn’t even happen once. Ever.
Ismael Ambrosio, pictured above. I saw a monster truck driving down the road one time with a bumper sticker that read, “It’s legal, officer. Fuck off.” For some reason, I remember that truck frequently, and always imagine it progressing a block or two at a time between encounters with stern police officers with tape measures.
But bumper stickers can be removed, as my sister learned of the “boy crazy” decal on the Ford escort I was forced to drive once. Even most blatantly inadvisable tattoos can be covered up with clothing of some kind. If Mr. Ambrosio tries to go shopping with his tattoo put away — walk into a store with a mask on? — he’s still going to get hassled by the fuzz. The best part? He was arrested on a hold issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hey, stupid! They’d probably profile you anyway, but you had to go and bait The Man to take you down when they already had a legitimate reason?
Congratulations, sir. It looks like you’re playing stupid. And you’re winning.