Here's an expression that I hear frequently. You may have even said the following words yourself recently. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Yeah? Bring it. You think you've got Stupid? Compared to what's been going on with me this week, you haven't ever even met Stupid. Stupid doesn't know where you live.

Top this: Some months ago, I glanced out my window and happened to observe a young man wearing short pants and a gray shirt getting into my car. Certain that I had proffered no such invitation to any person wearing a shirt of any color, I scampered outside and engaged the crew cut gentleman in conversation.

"What do you think you're doing?" I began.

"Yeah, man, it's ok. I'm leaving. It's ok," he replied.

Feeling strongly that it--whatever it turned out to be--was anything but "ok," I allowed the conversation to deteriorate. Admittedly, harsh words were spoken. Feeling a further exchange of views unlikely to be productive, I summoned the authorities who promptly apprehended said young man breaking into another car, this one belonging to a neighbor living three blocks away.

A series of civic responsibilities followed--identifications, depositions, phone calls with a series of prosecutors each of whom asked the same questions, trips to various governmental monoliths conveniently located in cities in vague proximity to the one in which I live and where Mr. Grotlee and I had engaged in our brief, unsatisfying conversation.

Still, following through seemed like the right thing to do, an opportunity to teach the children about the criminal justice system, ("Daaad, we already know that!") and a chance to ensure that Mr. Grotlee was incarcerated. I had no illusions about recovering the five dollars and three CDs with which Mr. Grotlee has absconded. (Note to younger reader: CDs were a plastic medium, popular in previous generations, on which music or other binary data could be... Oh, never mind.)

But, getting back to Stupid: I am making no inference as to Mr. Grotlee's mental capability or lack thereof. If his nineteen previous arrests for drug related crimes are any indication, it is his addiction issues, not his SAT scores, that are of concern. My story involves the series of robo-calls subsequent to Mr. Grotlee's release from the custody of the state, the first of which came at 9:30 on a "school night" last week.

"Blah, blah, blah, Grotlee. Blather, blather, blather, Grotlee," the recording began. "Released, doesn't matter, who cares?" it continued. "Grotlee, Grotlee, Grotlee." But then the recording got interesting: "To let us know that you have received this message, enter your pin. Otherwise,"--I was listening intently now--"we will call back every two hours."

As the great philosopher, Scooby Doo, so aptly expressed, "Rut ro!" Because I am unequivocal: I did not get a pin number when I went to the state attorney's office; I did not get a pin number when I went downtown; I did not get a pin number on a box. I did not get a pin number with a fox. And now the recording is going to call me back every two hours.

Which, with a precision that only Truly Stupid can achieve, they summarily proceeded to do.

The next call duly arrived at 11:30 PM, as promised. The one after that at 1:30 in the morning. Having tried every pin number I had ever used--but never guessing the mystery pin I had secretly been assigned--I unplugged the phone and got a glorious four hours of sleep before getting up to go run with the loonies and fulfill my other responsibilities during a day in which Roman legions thoughtfully marched repeatedly through my brain.

Eventually, I was able to contact someone of my own species in the Florida State Department of Criminal Sometimes We Put You on Hold Just to See How Long You'll Wait and determined that, indeed, my pin number was the last four digits of the phone number times my wife's social security number divided by the number of times I had thought about putting a fork in my eye the night when the robo-calls kept coming in.

"Of course," I said thankfully. "I should have known."

What's the takeaway? Surely, "Avoid civic responsibility to decrease the likelihood of over zealous phone recording programmers invading your home" can not be right. Nor is "Somebody should have mentioned to Mr. Grotlee that being chemically dependent on drugs in a bad life plan," that particular horse being not only out of the barn, but well down the road. Indeed, it could be argued that that horse had died some years ago, its bones long since rotting in the sun.

No, in my psychotic ravings that early morning, before pulling the phone out of the wall, I reflected on how unlikely it was that anyone would remember their (alleged) pin number at two hour intervals.

Similarly, many of the parents with whom I work, remind their children every two hours to do their homework. Ignoring for the moment whether or not homework is developmentally appropriate for young children (it's not) what makes parents think that incessant reminders will be of benefit?

As always, my advice is simple: avoid obsessing about insipid homework. Instead, sit down and read a book with your child. Your child will learn more and, in a relaxed household, you will be more able to keep an eye out for Mr. Grotlee breaking into your car.

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