When I read about people with excessively modern jobs, such as Life Coach or Professional Closet Organizer or Pet Masseur, I wonder what their occupations might have been in colonial times. This always leads me to consider my own ineptitude. Here are only a few of the many things which I can’t do:
1. Drive a car. I failed my driving test six times; I’ve written about this phenomenon in my essay collection, I Shudder. When folks encourage me to try again, I ask them: do you really want to be on the road behind someone who needed that many attempts? Sometimes I wonder, should an emergency situation arise, if I could remember the basics of driving. The answer is no. If I had to, say, somehow get an extremely pregnant woman to a hospital, on a deserted backroad, I would try to hail a cab.
2. Cook. Microwave popcorn is pretty much it. If I were required to create an impromptu dinner party for twelve, again, I would hail a cab.
3. Give directions. While I can usually get myself to wherever I’m going, the second someone asks me to guide them, my brain freezes. When friendly tourists ask me to help them find a restaurant which I know is only a block away, I have to remind myself: apologize profusely, and tell them to ask someone else. Because if I try to explain where Perry Street is, that nice family from New Zealand will become hopelessly lost and will ultimately find me and kill me, for ruining their trip to New York. And I won’t blame them.
4. Swim. As a child, I learned to swim, but I never liked to. Every cell in my body kept howling, you are a land animal! Why would you ever submerge yourself? Why would you do something which requires such an unflattering outfit? Swimming is an early form of drowning. Hail a cab!
5. Any math beyond the most basic addition and subtraction. When I was in school, I’d sit in the front row of any math class and prop my eyelids open with toothpicks, and try to focus and absorb. This never worked. If I were an investment banker, I would be Bernie Madoff, only accidentally.
6. Speak a foreign language. Whenever I leave the US, I’m deeply ashamed, because so many people in France or Italy or Hong Kong have mastered not only their native tongues, but English as well. In high school, for my language requirement, I took Latin. My teacher was a sweet, seriously alcoholic ex-priest who would pass out a few minutes into each class. Unless you’re a radically old school clergyman, you will never have to speak Latin. There was, however a Latin version of a popular childrens book, called Winnie Ille Pooh.
7. Smoke. I know that smoking is an evil habit, but I still think that certain people are really good at it. The only reason I don’t smoke is that I don’t have the knack. I’ve tried desperately to smoke in that offhand, Belmondo manner, but the cigarette would always break, or tumble into my lap. So here’s today’s moral lesson: ineptitude can save your life. If I was Malcolm Gladwell,I could get a book deal out of this.
Here’s Jean-Paul Belmondo: