Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quack attack - II

Sometimes I need what only you can provide - your absence. - Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant

In the first couple of years after my stroke, when I was more naive, I used to seriously listen to the quacks and ask them questions. But I realised that I was getting what in IIMA we used to call 'global gas' or 'arbit c.p.' (arbitrary class participation). I got plenty of answers but they were not for questions that I had asked. At the best of times it is frustrating to argue with them but when you cannot speak, it is like herding cats. Before I could complete my question, I got a volley of non-answers which successfully missed the point.

I once played table tennis with an opponent who had more alcohol sloshing about in his blood stream than is usually recommended for such an endeavour. He played several splendid forehand drives which would have left several international players gaping in awe. The only problem was that his bat was about a mile away from the ball every time. He looked at the bat in bewilderment each time wondering why he kept missing his shots. It was reminiscent of Fred Truman's comment when he could not hit a spinner:"I'm all right when his arm comes over, but I'm out of form by the time the bloody ball gets here." If the ball personified my questions, my opponent's bat personified the answers that I got from the quacks. There was no chance of the twain meeting.

After making their oracular pronouncements, people often told me to keep an open mind. This was a signal for me to keep it tightly shut. As the author Terry Pratchett said, 'The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.' I hated it when these guys came home when Jaya had gone out and I was forced to listen to their implausible claims mutely.

Whenever an argument looks likely to become full of sound and fury signifying nothing, I think of a parable that I had heard as a child (admittedly, I am going back to pre-history). A giant and a pygmy met at the center of a narrow bridge which was only wide enough to let one person cross. The giant growled, 'I don't make way for fools.' The pygmy murmured, 'I do' and went back. Saying 'I do' and keeping quiet saved me a lot of time. I did not want to waste time and energy only to find out, like Barney Frank, that I was arguing with a table. I only had to guard against the Dopelar Effect.

I once saw a sticker which said - ' some give happiness wherever they go and some give happiness whenever they go'. You don't have to think too hard to determine to which category of people I thought these guys belonged. And I am sure the purveyors of snake oil were somewhat miffed when they found that their practised patter was not having the desired effect and their opinion about me would have been less than flattering.


  1. you ARE funny! i feel the same anger when i receive advice on parenting and weight-loss. both are very personalised, and really people should zip it, unless they are willing to take care of your kids for any length of time, or are willing to do the push-ups and dieting with you.

  2. oh, i said dieting, and the security word check that came up was burito! weird?

  3. Thanks for the Dopeler effect link...Had heard of Doppler effect but Dopeler???Now I know..
    And my vocab has seriously improved.Ignoranus would have been a better word to describe the quacks!!!Ha!Ha!Ha!Snake Oil???Did someone actually prescribe that???