I do my best philosophical thinking while I’m folding laundry. The other day, as I folded yet another fitted sheet and realized both that I actually know how to fold a fitted sheet, and also that there is no point to folding a fitted sheet, I started thinking about how many other things I know that serve no practical purpose. For instance, I know Cookie Monster’s first name. It’s Sid. No one needs to know that (except, presumably, Sid).
Then I started wondering: how did I wind up with all this useless knowledge? It began with a few odd bits of information from family and friends, knowledge I never wanted but kept anyway to be polite (like how to fold a fitted sheet), but over time it became such a massive pile of crap in my mental garage that there was barely enough room for the Porsche 911 that the Little Blind Girl In My Head totally drives.
Now, though, I need that space for things like retirement planning and how to tell if fruit is ripe. So, to clear out my mental garage, I’ve decided to have a mental yard sale. I thought about having an auction, but I don’t really need any more voices in my head. So if you like to stockpile pointless facts for emergency use at, judging from experience, family reunions and office parties, come spend a little time in my psyche (it’s BYOB). I’ve got some good stuff. Here’s a sample item:
Useless Knowledge For Sale: The proper use of finger bowls
There isn’t one. Everyone just assumes they’re for washing your fingers. Finger bowls aren’t brought out until just before the dessert course in a formal dinner, however, and— formal dinners not being known for their finger food— you’ll almost never need to wash your fingers at this point in the meal. The proper thing to do with a finger bowl is almost always to set it off to the left so it doesn’t get in the way of the dessert.
In fact, needing to use a finger bowl is the fine dining equivalent of the walk of shame. It means you’re such a messy eater that, despite having been provided with three different spoons, four different forks, and six different knives, you still managed to get food all over your hands. Honestly, it’s like you were raised in a barn.
(If this happens, by the way, no one actually expects you to use the finger bowl. Just wipe your fingers discreetly on your napkin and then “accidentally” let the napkin slip to the floor, at which point you have an excuse to replace it with a cleaner model. This method has served me well for years.)
I realize this isn’t much of a sales pitch, so I’ll throw in another, somewhat related bit of arcane table manners trivia free of charge:
Useless Knowledge Gift With Purchase: It’s completely acceptable to eat asparagus with your hands.
Unlike much of what was said at the recent political conventions, this is actually true. You may daintily dine on the succulent shoots without using so much as an asparagus tong and then smugly wiggle your fingers around in your finger bowl in perfect propriety, though you should stop short of flicking water at the people who used utensils.
Unfortunately for me, I hate asparagus, so this fascinating knowledge does me no good, even if the Queen of England were to invite me to a formal asparagus tasting replete with finger bowls of every description. One little blind girl’s trash is someone else’s treasure, though, so up for sale it goes.
Asking Price: The proper use of Tumblr
I went on Tumblr a few times to try to understand what it is, but the longest I went without getting trapped in porn was fourteen minutes. It may be that porn is, in fact, the proper use of Tumblr, I’m not sure. But I’m told there’s more to it, and knowing how to use Tumblr seems more relevant these days than knowing how to use a finger bowl— at any rate, it’s certainly more common. So if you’re interested or if you’ve got something else to trade, feel free to make an offer. I’m open to negotiation, and I really want my mind-garage back.
And anyway, Queen Victoria once drank from a finger bowl, so what do I know?
(All images are in the public domain via pixabay.com)