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Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest--and Beyond

It's important to know your limits.

12:00 AM, Aug 15, 2007 • By LARRY MILLER
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SOMETIMES I'M SO stupid I amaze even myself.

There's a commercial running out here for an appliance store named Carlson's. (I've never been there, I don't know the guy, and they don't give me anything. I'm just mentioning the name because they make those clever, local ads that are often fun. Of course, if they see this and decide to give me thirty TV's, that would be fine, too, but I'll let you know first.)

Anyway, one of their ads is about a new washer-dryer they have that washes, dries, and folds the clothes at the same time. Are you getting that? At the same time. All you have to do is put the clothes in, press a button, come back later and, presto, they're all folded, cleaned, fabric-softened, and stacked on a rack inside: jeans, polo shirts, socks, towels, everything. One door, one button. I think it even sorts.

The guy who performs the ads--Carlson, presumably--is appealingly low key and funny in a dry, wry way. Very likable, which makes the ads effective. I keep thinking, "Boy, I've got to go to Carlson's one of these days and get a sink or something."

The point is, and I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but the first few times I saw the ad I thought it was real. I thought it was folding the clothes. I knew it wasn't, because it couldn't. You can't put dirty clothes in a unit that cleans, dries, folds and stacks. It's a joke, and the guy's teasing. Obviously; and you'd have to be an idiot to think otherwise.

Well, then, I'm an idiot, because I thought it was real. Just for a few seconds, maybe, but I actually looked at all those clean clothes each time he opened the door and thought, "How in the world do they do that?"

Maybe I was tired and only half watching (I hoped). Maybe I was having a snack and chasing some potato sticks around the plate. Maybe I was reading or playing solitaire. Maybe I was making out with my wife like a sophomore, or engaged in the kind of deep thinking I do so often.

Yeah, and maybe I was tequila-drunk with John Saxon and arm-wrestling over scorpions nailed to the table.

No, there's no way around it. I thought it was real. Briefly, but I thought it was real.

YESTERDAY I WAS DRIVING with one of the kids, and he asked why the car had so many noisy safety gadgets, and it sent me into a big speech (so rare for me) about the over-safety-fication of American society that insists on protecting us when we don't need it and haven't asked for it. Yeah, he agreed, and brought up how they're not allowed to run or wrestle on the playground at school. "You know what the sign at school should say?" I asked. "No playing on the playground."

He laughed, which always makes any father feel good, and then I said, "You know one that's really been bugging me? The new Lexus ad for the car that parks itself. Parallel parking is a big part of learning to drive a car, and a source of pride. I don't want the car to park itself, or do anything by itself. I take care of my own life, and so will you."

My son looked at me and said, "They're joking."


"The car can't park itself. That would be like outer space in the future. It's a joke. They're kidding."

"Hold it," I said (but only after a long beat), "Are we talking about the same commercial here? I know the guy who does the voice over, Steven Macht. Never mind. The car pulls up to a spot, and he pushes something, and the thing parallel parks itself."

"Yeah," he said. "How would it even do that?"

"I don't know," I said, "Radar, electric eyes, cameras. I thought . . . I thought that's the kind of thing they can do today."

"No, it's a joke."

Later that night I asked him again before bed.

"Are you sure about that car? It can't park itself?"

"I'm sure, Dad."

Then, today, no kidding, just now, writing this, I called him in from the den. "Look at me. You're not kidding me, are you? That car commercial was a joke? It can't park?"

"Yeah, they're joking."

That's how dumb I am; and even dumber than that, because part of me--seriously--still thinks that car can pull up and park.

SOME DUMB THINGS are easy to laugh off when they happen, but some aren't. Here's one I just realized in the last week or two.

I thought we all wanted to win in Iraq. I really did. Isn't that dumb? Oh, I always knew a small chunk, the Ward Churchills, wanted us to lose and leave humiliated, that the lost blood and money served us right, because we had it coming; always had it coming; still have it coming. But they're not so small, are they?