Tuesday, October 29, 2013

110 Percent

Today while out driving in the rain I was thinking the usual kind of irritated thoughts that seem to happen while driving. 

Like, "dammit it is time to renew the license, and will my eyes pass?". And "Look at that asshole in his fancy car", and "Back off, buddy", and "I should really clean all the crap out of this car" and "Oh great, now I have to put in the zip code every time?!"- that last while putting a few gallons in the tank.  

Actually, this time I picked a pump which didn't care about my zip code, or more likely, already had it on a chip somewhere behind the front panel. I don't care. Everyone knows my zip code, who would want to know it. 

But it made me think about some stuff. Like, for example,. how when I was a kid, after walking five miles through the blizzard which I couldn't do until the cows had been herded out, herded back,  milked, and spoken to softly hoping they would do something magic- I bought a full box  of Hershey's with Almonds bars, all for myself.  

I saved up enough of those pennies no one picks up to buy a whole box of Hershey bars. With almonds. The old style. The domed top, copious quantities of almonds, and a wrapper that fit like a thousand-dollar silk suit. 

Of course, I was a kid. Those things wouldn't mean so much now; now it is just glom down the chocolate until nothing hurts any more. 

But back then,  Hershey bars and idealistic youth seemed to pose no conflict of interest to each other, or would even squabble, if found together side by side on two Schwinn 3-speeds and unable to escape each other. 

They would get along fine, back in those days. 

Nowadays, chocolate- well, it is too expensive for ordinary people. 

See, back then, after I got in from the blizzard with all my books borrowed from teachers, I got a ride to the store with Mother, and I had $1.20 saved up, and got a box of twenty-four (24) Hershey's with Almonds bars. 

Don't ask me how many ounces. This was in the time of black phones, and like the phones, all Hershey bars were the same.  Now some are more equal than others, and that is the sort of thing I wanted to talk about.  Not only that, now the chocolate bars are heavier than telephones. In the old days, we couldn't have imagined that. Civilization marches on.

But first, the Hershey bar story- it's almost done; your suffering will soon be over. 

I had that box of 24. It was the kind of box you could use for other stuff. Not that it was so durable or thick, it was just well-made. The top slid over the bottom part. You could have put a small shirt and some crinkly paper in it and it would have been a gift for a small person, but I didn't do that. 

I ate those Hershey bars. I don't recall giving any away, but maybe I did. No, probably not. 

In those days, a box of 24 Hershey bars was something to have. It was like money in the bank. It made me not mind the blizzard, and the weight of all those advanced books in my freezing hands.  I knew that at home was that box. That shiny, slick, well-made box, with the most well-designed arrangement of stacked Hershey bars inside of it- it was so nice, I almost didn't like to take any out. 

Of course, it wasn't perfect. Here's why. The tops were round, but the bottoms were flat. So you really needed that box, to stop the sliding. I know, I know. The kinds without almonds will stack up just like crackers. But they aren't the same. The domed top, for all its inconvenience, was a necessary feature of the totality of the elegance of that full box of Hershey bars. Arcs always add class to flat things.

Think of it. One dollar and twenty cents. There was no tax on food, either. Really. Yes, it was in this country. 

It was full price- five cents apiece- because the store guy didn't care about the box. All the box was for, to that guy,  was to hold five-cent bars in so they didn't slip out and fall on the floor. So, me buying 24 of them off the shelf, or buying a box of 24, it was all the same to him. 

But look at it this way. I didn't get a discount, but I did get a free box, and the enjoyment of keeping the 24 Hershey bars in it, so nicely stacked, and so helpful to the rocking problem caused by the rounded tops. 

It was worth it. But what can you get for a dollar-twenty today? Let us examine this issue a little bit. 

Last week, simply because all the stores are over where all the people with money live and so all we have is kwik-marts around this neighborhood, I went to the gas station to buy something to eat.

 I decided to get one of those large Hershey bars they have now. It actually is pretty big, about the size of maybe three or four of the classics like those I had in that box fifty years ago- I ate them all within 4 days,  by the way. 

So I wanted one, and bought this big one. 

It was a flattie. Almonds get stuck in my teeth now. So I got the big flattie Hershey bar. 

In a normal universe it would be, say, fifty cents. After all, it is pretty big, and times have changed, and money ain't what it used to be any more than the old gray mare is. 

I thought it would maybe even be $1.29. I hoped no more than that.

 Well, of course, in some stores, some of the time, they try to fool you into buying stuff at the wrong price, and so sometimes it will say something like "Buy two, get one free!" on items, but they won't tell you what it costs to buy the first one of them. They tell you that at checkout. 
So then, you're at checkout, wondering what the price is on the damn candy bar, and there is that guy with a skinhead, and wearing a camo jacket waiting to buy his RedMan, and having left his diesel 4x4 deer-hunting truck running, he is in a hurry, and he took his steroids too late this morning or something, and has already harassed me at the coffee counter on a previous trip to that local kwik-mart, and so, not wanting to delay  this Bluto, it is tempting to just pay the- what?- did you say two seventy-one? For a Hershey bar??" 

I realize it isn't her fault. I pay and smile through closed lips. 

She says "Have a good one"- they always do now. 

Sometimes they say, right after handing you the receipt "come back!" and you want to say, "But I'm still here! What should I do!". But then, she is liable to think you are a present danger simply because you have a few gray hairs and smiled at her.

 No matter, one knows how to behave in such situations; one takes one's candy bar  and leaves and goes home and enjoys it like Gollum eating a raw fish behind a dripping rock. And one doesn't worry about having to share it with the dog, because it's chocolate,  so get off me, dog.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today. I wanted to talk about how bored I am with people saying they are giving one hundred and ten percent. 

Obviously they didn't give it, in the form of attention paid in arithmetic class. 

Now, there is even a website with 110% quotes. I mean a dedicated web page. 

That's what has happened while you all were asleep. That, and candy bars getting out of control, so an old fellow can barely have one on a depressing, rainy day.
Oh well, chocolate is bad anyway. I didn't really want it. People who want it are just not strong.

Now these people who say 'I give 110%"- sometimes it is 120, 150, often 200 per cent, and up to a thousand per cent. 

This is what people give these days, or say they do. One hundred percent is no good any more.  Even 99 percent is a failure. You are a loser at 99 percent. In fact, 110 per cent is now a mandatory minimum, and has been embraced by our spiritual and secular as well as favorite business leaders, all over this great land of ours, despite the shortage of reasonably-priced chocolate.

The idea is that you can give more than one hundred per cent. I write it per cent and not percent to show my faithful, blizzard-hiking readers the difference. 

"Percent" now means almost nothing. 

   I looked up 110 percent on Google. First entry, it tells me 110% = 1.1. 
Well, yes, I understand, in a manner of speaking it does. 

But how you can get 110 somethings out of 100, without breeding them first, I don't know. 
Percent, or per cent,  it, is based on a concept, long-established, that 100 percent means the full amount of something. 

The total.

 Whatever it is, as a quantity of something, 100% represents all of it, no more and no less. 

Back when candy bars were still a nickel, this is what percent, or per cent,  meant. 

If you got a perfect score on a test, it was 100 percent. You couldn't get a higher score. 100% meant, every single thing was right.  There were no mistakes and no omissions. It was perfect. 100 meant perfect. 

"Cent" comes from the Latin word for one hundred. "Per" means "through".  You could say in this case it means "of" or "from" or "out of". 
Anything less than a total quantity is less than one hundred percent, and anything over one hundred percent can't exist except as a figure of speech. 

The trouble is that the figure of speech- that is, 110% as a figure of speech implying "going above the call of duty" or "giving more than anyone else" or "giving more than usual"- has been embraced as reality that even applies to common solid, liquid, and gaseous objects with which we are all familiar. A hundred percent, now, is really just lame. 100%. Ha! You gotta do better than that, Sparky. 

Beyond this misconception is something deeper. It is the belief, fostered by advertising and perhaps too much good living, that something can be had from nothing, or that if you have one of something, you can make it into one and a tenth of the same thing, and that is 110%. 

But you can't. 100% is the whole thing. There is total, and there is less than total. Total is 100, and less than 100 is less than total. That's how it used to be.  Back when we even had blizzards to walk through.

Now everyone says "I give 110%, buddy!" and thinks he is a hotshot. 
Until the next guy says "Well, Skippy, I give 120%!". 

Then it  is a pissing contest, and they never do learn their arithmetic.

But it gets worse than that, and I  don't just mean my writing. It gets to where people believe that if they wish hard enough, they can make the modern version of loaves and fishes all by their own selves. 

If they pray hard enough, they can cause something that is 100 to divinely increase to 110, 120, 150, 200, or 1000 "per cent". That's like saying, I have one dollar, and prayer will make it worth $1.20. No. Inflation does that, and the worth is only nominal.

The worst manifestation so far of the 110% involves the 1000% contingent, mostly, I think.

 This is the group which believes that with wishing and with prayer, 100 percent of available destructive energy blowing up skyscrapers is increased to 1000%. They just think that it is supposed to be that way. 

And so it is easy for them to believe that something that requires 1000 pieces of energy can be had for 100 pieces of energy. 

Well, it isn't true, and I'm here to say so, for those who can understand a little bit of satire and irony  and arithmetic, and who know anything about the destruction of those buildings. 

The energy it took was not available, except from explosives, see?  Not in gravity and kerosene fires. The energy just wasn't there big enough, see? It had to be added. A LOT had to be added. That's what was done. 

That is what I mean about the 110 percenters. They think that there is more in 100 percent than there really is. So they go to die in wars and kill people who haven't gotten old enough to even read a book yet, because of the god-damned stupid "I give 110%" concept, which lets them believe the Big Lie of 9/11 and all the lies that followed it. 

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