Fred Allen once said, "I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy." Agnes Allen (no relation) said, "Almost anything is easier to get into than out of."
These are but two of the pungent bits that appear in a fascinating new book by Paul Dixon, called "The New Official Rules: Maxims for Muddling Through to the Twenty-First Century," published by Addison-Wesley ($16.95).This book is a kick that allows either enjoyable reading or skimming for intriguing maxims you can use in hundreds of different ways.
It began in 1976 when the author picked up a cardboard shoebox and a set of alphabetical dividers and began filing slips of paper with "odd mock-scientific rules and laws that helped to describe our flawed universe." He called the box the "Murphy Center for the Codification of Human and Organizational Law."
These rules help us deal with life either in the fast track or the slow lane, with an emphasis on surviving the assaults of impersonal bureaucracies and overcoming persistent frustrations of everyday life. Some of the rules come from famous people and others from those who aren't famous, while still others are anonymous. Let me share a few I liked:
Anonymous: "Never try to be nice to a man with a tattoo on his face."
A Californian suggested that one should not bathe for several days before seeing one's doctor. "This is a potent tool to keep the doctor from asking you to return."
Adams' Law: "(1) Women don't know what they want; they don't like what they have got. (2) Men know very well what they want; having got it, they begin to lose interest."
Alicia's Discovery: "When you move something to a more logical place, you can only remember where it used to be and your decision to move it."
I identified with Asa's Law: "Every author hopes that at least one of his epigrams will grow up to be a cliche."
The writer Robert Bench-ley's Discovery: "It took me 15 years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."
Erma Bombeck's Law: "The more absurd the item, the more likely you are to need it the day after you throw it away."
David Broder, the Washington columnist, originated Broder's Warning: "When `everybody' in the nation's capital agrees on something, it is prudent to be skeptical."
The Burma Shave signs produced the Burma Shave Certainty: "Within this vale . . . of toil . . . and sin . . . your head grows bald . . . but not your chin."
Carlisle's Rule: "To find the I.Q. of any committee or commission, first determine the I.Q. of the most stupid member and then divide that result by the number of members."
Henry Kissinger's Discovery: "The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it's their fault."
One of Long's Rules of Hospital Care: "Although there are 100 ways of getting in and out of bed, each one will result in the same amount of pain."
There is a related one not in the book: If your surgeon says the procedure will produce moderate discomfort, it will hurt like medieval torture.
McLaughlin's Query: "What is it called when you spend 25 minutes looking for a restaurant, 20 minutes finding a place to park, 15 minutes standing in line to place your order, 10 minutes waiting for your food and five minutes trying to locate an empty table? Fast food."
Tom Shales' TV Testimonial: "Well, of course, you can't avoid watching television. I mean, what would life be but an endless series of real experiences?"
Stasny's Elevator Strategy: "If you're in the front of a packed car and hear footsteps down the hall followed by the words, `Hold the elevator!' here's a way to mollify everybody: Lunge for the control panel, but deliberately miss the `Door open' button. The person staring at you from the outside will think you tried, and the restless mob behind you will be glad you didn't."
This book will either turn you into the life of the party or a true sage.