Inside Doug's Head

I am not a number, I am… What's that stuff they make glue out of? I'm that. Forever swirling, forwards and upwards, but always sticky. Sometimes, a little sad.

So, many years ago, when I was younger, which is an incredibly odd thing to say because no one ever begins an anecdote, “Here is a picture of me last year when I was older.” I should just state, many years ago… and leave it at that.

Again, many years ago, I used to watch television (it was a thing back then, and you had to watch what the network lords were showing when it was being shown—primitive, really) shows that featured as the main protagonist characters who would put on an act of being less clever than they really were in order to aid them in their crime fighting endeavors. Characters like, Matlock, and Columbo, would stumble around crime scenes and stammer through clumsy interviews with potential suspects, all the while feigning a mental defect to cover up their detective brilliance.  Their act of stupididity enticed the suspects to lower their guard, and to think, “This guy is so dumb. I could probably confess to the crime and he would think I was talking about a goat I ate for dinner last night.”

But they were wrong. Matlock would spring upon a suspect, usually when they were testifying at someone else’s trial (he was a defense lawyer, after all, and if someone didn’t get wrongly prosecuted for a crime they didn’t commit, then he did not get paid). So, he would ask them, “You wear a size 58 underwear?” And, the suspect, not realizing they were walking into an elaborate cognitive trap, would answer, “Yes. I am grotesquely obese. What of it?” Matlock would then proceed to present a sequence of detailed diagrams with precise measurements showing how someone who wears size 58 underwear could not possibly have made it down the fire escape, and then turn, twist, wriggle, and case solved. The witness has confessed to the murder. They always confessed for some reason, no matter how flimsy or circumstantial the evidence.

Columbo would follow a similar shtick, asking a series of seemingly unrelated questions, only to conclude with, “One more thing..,” [True story: It was Peter Falk’s idea to have his Columbo character return to the suspect following a questioning with, “One more thing.” In the pilot episode, Ransom for a Dead Man, Columbo originally said, “See this raincoat I’m wearing? By the end of this case, I am going to wrap this coat around your head, secure it tightly with my belt around your neck, and make violent love to you until you plead for death.” And then during the remaining interviews with the suspect, after each question, Columbo would point to his coat and silently mouth the words, plead for death, over and over, until the suspect eventually confessed out of fear of being on the receiving end of an angry bum raping. Peter Falk insisted that this behavior might be perceived as too aggressive for the relatively mild mannered Columbo, and suggested the line change. Was he right? You can judge for yourself.]

Columbo would ask innocuous questions about the nature of cheese, and how the armed robber knew the bottle labeled C17H21NO4 was cocaine. Then, just as it looked like the interview was over, “One more thing… Why were you observed running naked from the crime scene, yelling, ‘I shot her! I shot her! I shot that evil bitch right in her cold dead face! I am finally free to get on with my life of whoring and debauchery!’ if you had nothing to do with the murder?” Ah, you got me! Your deducing wizardry uncovered the one hole in my near perfect plan! If only I had not underestimated your intelligence.

Anyhow, my advice is that you should not embrace as your role models fictional characters like Columbo and Matlock, and pretend to be stupid just to give yourself the upper hand in life’s situations. Unless you are negotiating bizarre trade deals with Somali pirates, pretending to be stupider than you really are never gives you the advantage. Really, though, there is no situation in which convincing your employer you are as dumb as a post is a good idea. “I have my 6-month performance review tomorrow, but I am not worried, my boss thinks I am an incompetent nincompoop. It’s a good thing I set fire to the fax machine to really sell the point. That raise and promotion are mine for sure!”

Life should not imitate this form of art. It never ends well.


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