Who Invented Table Manners

In that long-lost time that has recently been deemed worthy of the title of “the Bronze Age” there was a village called Whimblestimblepup. It had a dumb name, so nobody wanted to live there. That’s why Bob Snoggles lived in a village called Coolawesometown.

Bob lived a pretty good life. He ate nice meals every day and he slept in a nice bed and he only got kicked in the neck every couple years. It was a pretty good life. But one thing always made Bob angry. He couldn’t be happy unless everyone else was eating meals that were less nice than he was. He was upset any time someone slept in a bed as nice as his. And he wanted everybody to get kicked in the neck at least twice as often as he was.

Bob would lay awake in his nice bed at night and wonder “If there’s a God, why are other people allowed to have lives as nice as mine?” Bob called this philosophical question the Problem of Evil. He lost so much sleep thinking about this problem that he decided to hire a team of scientists to research it.

To keep things simple, Bob hired seven scientists that were all named Alberto Grimpsteiner Junior and addressed them all as if they were a single person. (One was actually named Alberto Grumpstoner III, but lied on their resume and was never caught.)

“Alberto,” Bob said, “it just doesn’t make any sense. I like it when other people have lesser lives than me, but they don’t!”

“Well,” said Alberto, “we’ll hook these electrodes to the brains of everyone in Coolawesometown and see what our scanners have to say.”

And so that’s what they did.

For a while, the people of Coolawesometown all went about their business as normal, except Shirley who used the word “ostensibly” more often in an attempt to impress Alberto.

The information from the electrodes printed out as squiggly lines on tickertape and Alberto looked at it solemnly. This went on for months. Bob continued to sleep poorly and began to get frustrated.

“Alberto, you bonehead,” he said one morning. “I hired you to get results, not to just look at findings from your scientific instruments! If you don’t do some real science soon, I’m going to fire you!”

Alberto didn’t want to get fired because he was deeply in debt with a local loan shark. As a result of these worries, Alberto started sleeping poorly. When the loan shark saw the toll it was taking on Alberto, he worried about getting the money he was owed and soon he was sleeping poorly as well. The effects continued to ripple through the community. The loan shark’s children worried that they might not be able to afford shiny new toys. Alberto’s parents worried that they had wasted so much money sending Alberto to Science School. Alberto’s parents’ loan sharks worried that the parents would start being thrifty because they didn’t want to waste more money. And so on. Before anyone realized what was happening, everyone in Coolawesometown was sleeping terribly.

When the electrode result printers told Bob about this, he was elated! He called Alberto into his office. “This is a start, but it isn’t perfect. You’d better finish the job, or you’re out on your keister!”

But Bob didn’t plan on letting Alberto solve the problem. Now that he was sleeping a bit better, he was thinking better too. He knew that if Alberto solved the problem, Alberto would sleep well again, because he wouldn’t fear losing his job. “I have to solve the rest of this problem myself,” Bob said to his parrot Peegly, “and I have just the plan!”

One night Bob threw a big dinner party and invited everyone in Coolawesometown. Everyone was feeling pretty worried about things by then, so they all thought a nice dinner party would be the perfect balm to soothe their itchy spirits. Unfortunately for them, when they showed up and sat down, they noticed that they’d each been given multiple forks and spoons of varying sizes. They thought it was a mistake and asked Bob about it.

“Oh, you don’t know what the multiple forks are for?” Bob replied. “How uncouth.”

And suddenly everyone was worrying again. Were they doing something wrong? Were there rules to cutlery that they didn’t know about? Were they the fools here?

Throughout the dinner Bob implied more rules to keep the diners on edge.

“You put your elbows on the table while you eat? Barbaric!”

“You are tucking your napkin into your shirt like a bib? Vulgar!”

“You are throwing bread up in the air and catching it in your mouth, which you have already filled with peanut butter and jam? You’re a human freakshow!”

By the end of the meal all the guests were convinced that their perfectly normal behaviours were in some way flawed and that they were terrible people. They all went home with new anxieties and were unable to sleep well.

Also, from that day foward Bob made sure to kick people in the neck as often as he could get away with.

And so, Bob Snoggles heroically made life worse for everyone else in Coolawesometown and was able to sleep better for the rest of his life. To this day there is a statue of Bob in the centre of town to commemorate his accomplishments.

Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Arbitration

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