How to define stupid

Published 9:37 am Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Circular Congregation Breakfast Club is a loose amalgamation of breakfast enthusiasts who gather most mornings around a large circular table that occupies the center of the local diner.

Harry, Jimmy and Arnold can be counted on the “regular” side of the guest list. Tommy Jones is the elder statesman of the group. “Big John” Hudson works at the wire plant with Sal Saratore.

Their shift starts at 7 o’clock, which usually gives them just enough time to inhale an order of whatever morning special is scrawled on the chalkboard, suck down a couple cups of coffee and offer up a comment or two, about what they would do should they ever be handed the reins to the world.

Tommy, Big John and Sal are regular members of the “once-in-awhile” list. Mort Ellingson rounds out the table, and is best known for arriving first and mistakenly thinking surfing the internet makes him well read.

Mort was the first one to get the morning dialogue started when he said, “Big John doesn’t need to worry — they’ve defined stupid.”

“Big John” Hudson was known for his ability to steer the morning conversation into a train wreck of logic. Mort was known for surfing the internet until all hours of the night, and then coming to breakfast intent on sharing the wonderment of his nocturnal information overload. Both were eager to sit at the big round table and share their knowledge and opinions – but neither could back up most of the things they talked about.

“I wasn’t worried about it,” mumbled John as he poured maple syrup on his tall stack. “Have you been Googling yourself, again?”

“He did what to himself?” asked Tommy, the least computer literate member of the group. “I’m not sure what it is, but we probably shouldn’t be talking about it while we eat.”

“I read on the internet that a university in Budapest did a study and figured out how to define stupid,” Mort continued. “They gave a bunch of true stories about stupid people doing stupid things to a bunch of college students. Each of the college students rated each story on a stupidity scale of one to ten. Somehow, they figured out that stupid comes in three categories; Confident Ignorance, which is kinda’ like stealing a cellphone and then being surprised at getting caught because you didn’t turn the GPS thingy off…”

“GPS thingy?” challenged Jimmy, in a feeble attempt at conversational misdirection (“look at the squirrel — let’s talk about that, instead of whatever this silliness is.”)

“Another one was Absent Mindedness / Lack of Sensibility. That’s like filling your tire with air — but, it blows up because you forgot to stop.”

The consensus around the table was, “Yep. That’s stupid.”

“The third category was Lack of Control, which is like planning a fishing trip on the same day as your wedding anniversary.”

“Yep. That would be a whole lot of stupid,” agreed Harry. “Where did you say this study was made?”


“Not anymore. Just polished off a rice cake smothered in sausage gravy.” Harry was experimenting with healthy diet combinations. Last week he tried a bowl of fruit under a blanket of gravy — the week before it was All-Bran poured over a bowl of gravy. He figures that if he can come up with a healthy breakfast program that includes sausage gravy, he can write a book and make millions.

“Hungary the country,” Mort clarified. “Budapest, Hungary — The University of Budapest. 156 graduate students looked at 180 stories about stupid people and came up with three categories of stupid.”

“How many of those graduate students were women?” asked Sarah, as she refilled Harry’s cup for the third time.

“Seventy-nine percent of the students judging the stories were women,” answered Mort, pleased with his ability to retain such unnecessary tidbits of knowledge.

“That makes sense, then,” she smirked.

“Why is that?”

“Women know stupid when they see it.”


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at