What Was That?

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I watched a comedian one night who built a really funny routine based on a goldfish’ memory being good for about four seconds. His fish kept swimming around his bowl and was always surprised when he or she saw the castle. (I can’t tell the sex of fish and I am too embarrassed to flip him or her over and wouldn’t know what to look for if I did.)

I thought that would be a good subject for a column. I was going to write that I could tell a goldfish the subject of last week’s column was Einstein. Five seconds later I was going to ask him/her ‘What was Foster’s column about last week?’ and he/she would answer ‘Can I get back to you on that?’

As you can see that would have been a brilliant line and would live forever and a hilarious start to a scholarly study of the stupidity of fish and why we would be better served by electing one as our representative to Ottawa than what we have been doing since Confederation. However, out of curiosity I checked on the Internet and be damned some meddling scientists have proved the little devils have a memory span of five months give or take a day or two. Granted that would be an even better reason for electing one for Simcoe North (kidding Bruce, just kidding), but as I was bemoaning the loss of a good subject to brighten your lives, it occurred to me ‘How did these busybody scientists decide how long a goldfish remembers anyway?’

How did a bunch of science kooks, probably heavy drinkers one and all, test the memory of a bunch of fish? Most fish can’t talk although they do blub. Let us say you told little Nemo ‘The square of the hypotenuse of a right-angle triangle equals the sum of the square of the other two sides’ how would these experts know if he remembered the square of the hypotenuse business. Even if he blubbed his answer, they wouldn’t know if he was right or wrong because none of them speak blub. On the other hand, I did say they were drinkers so anything is possible.

Nor is that the only problem; I took that theorem 60 or 61 years ago, did I remember it right? Granted I could always check it out with Pythagoras but he might have forgotten and we would both would like idiots if we were wrong.

That is just one of those useless things we took in high school and never used along with a whole bunch of other nonsense that is just sitting somewhere in the empty corridors of our minds taking up much needed space – not mine necessarily but certainly yours.

A good example of the lunacy of our education system is the fact I took Latin for a year. I was given a 50 on the final if I promised not to take it again the next year. It was only after I wasted a whole year that I found out in a history class the Roman Empire had fallen several years ago and there was nobody left I could talk to. That is if I remembered enough words to start a conversation, which I didn’t.

It was much the same in French, I got another 50, but this time on condition I never traveled any further east than Brockville and I can only drive through St. Boniface, Manitoba if I am bound and gagged and lying on the back seat.

When we were kids, we learned the Imperial measurement system and the Fahrenheit system for temperature like God wanted us to and then the damned government changed it. Now I have no way of knowing whether I can carry 500 grams of cooked ham home from Zehrs or would I have to borrow my neighbour’s truck. I go to Couchiching Park in the summer never knowing if 25C is warm or if I should wear a fur hat and skidoo boots. A duly elected goldfish would never have voted for that Imperial/Fahrenheit stuff.

Memory is so critical in our lives, but why is it we never remember the vital stuff? I have a remarkable memory for important dates, that is the dates themselves, but I can never remember what happened on those dates. Did something big occur on July 4th, 1776 or is it just one more excuse for Americans to make speeches and fire off cannons. I know December 25th was my mother’s birthday because I have it written down somewhere, but why does everybody get a day off and even more important why are the Liquor Stores closed?

I guess I can always ask the kid down the street; he has a goldfish.

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