Things I don’t understand in this mysterious world

Good luck figuring out its secrets.

The world is full of mysteries. Sometimes I feel like a 2-year-old always asking, “Why?” Here’s a short list of things I don’t understand:

• Boiled potatoes. Why would anyone go to the trouble of boiling potatoes, and then not take that one last step and mash them? One of my favorite children’s books, “A Hole is to Dig,” by Ruth Krauss, says it best: “Mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough.”

• Socks and shoes. Shoes come in whole and half sizes. Socks have sizes like 6-9. There are seven different shoe sizes in that range, but they’re all expected to wear the same sock. How can that work? I would expect the sock to bunch up at the toe in the smaller shoe sizes and be stretched thin and cramp the toes of the larger shoe size wearers. Without the proper sized sock, no one has comfortable feet.

[Playing by the rules of life]

• Ashtrays on airplanes. Smoking has been prohibited on airplanes since 1988. Every flight begins with the announcement that there will be no tampering with or destroying the lavatory smoke detector. Yet every one of the five flights I took this past weekend had an ashtray in said lavatory. If not for cigarette butts, what is that ashtray for?

• Sleepovers. Why do they call it a sleepover when nobody goes to sleep? The whole point of a sleepover is to stay up all night with your friends, who you hope will still be your friends in the morning. There’s no sleep involved. Maybe the actual meaning of the word is that sleep time is over.

• Supermarket flour. It comes in a paper bag, folded over and glued shut. Baking powder comes with a snap-on lid covering a tear-off seal. To get into your toothpaste you have to open the box, unscrew the lid and break the foil seal. Over-the-counter medications require the precise amount of torque to release the child-proof cap, revealing the cardboard seal inside. Where is the seal on the bag of flour?

[Finding beauty and healing in life’s shattered moments]

• Chicken nuggets. Have you ever met a kid who didn’t like chicken nuggets? Somehow McDonald’s has hit on the perfect food to satisfy picky children. Some kids like fruit, some actually like vegetables, some only eat white chicken and some can’t eat a bite until it’s slathered in ketchup. Every child has something they won’t eat. But all kids eat McDonald’s chicken nuggets. What is it about those crunchy morsels that can satisfy so many different sensibilities?

• Coffee creamer. At home you keep it in the fridge, but in a diner, it sits on the table as a centerpiece. Does it need to be refrigerated or not? Do you risk some dire intestinal fate if you use room-temperature creamer in your coffee? Or maybe the restaurateurs figure that the coffee itself will upset your stomach so much that you’ll never think to blame it on the creamer.

• Escalators. Why is it that the handrail on an escalator doesn’t go at the same rate as the steps? Have you ever noticed this strange phenomenon? Your feet are zipping upstairs, but your hand is lagging behind. If you don’t shift your grip, you’ll soon be leaning so far backwards that you’re at risk of tumbling right down the escalator. Try it sometime.

• Drink sizes. A small orange juice in a restaurant is six ounces, a small soda at the movies might be 32 ounces, and to order a small coffee at a coffee shop, you ask for “tall.” Better stick to water.

The world is indeed a mysterious place. Good luck figuring out its secrets.


• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life. Her column runs on the last Sunday of every month.


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