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yo no se. je ne sais. ani lo yodeah.
at 33, i don't have all the answers
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

Wow. A new column out and it's my birthday. How does a guy get so lucky?

Well, with luck, actually.

My Intro to Philosophy professor once said on a paper of mine when faced with a stupid hypothetical I posed about a man jumping out of a window in virtual reality: "He hits fake ground. That was easy. Give me another." He was a funny man. I recall another quote from the class, that of Socrates who said, "The Ultimate Knowledge is knowing that you know nothing." Man, I loved philosophy. Where else could the 18-year-old me know nothing and still be a know-it-all?

As I reach the tender age of 33, I realize that there are just some things that I don't know. Probably more so now than when I was 18, anyway, or at least more that I'm willing to admit.

I know that people, upon reaching a certain age, often look back and reflect on what they've learned. "Start saving early for college," for example. Or "If something seems too good to be true, have a friend try it first." Or "There is no sex in the champagne room." A guide, if you will, to a younger generation who, should they put down their PSPs and listen, will not have to find these things out for themselves.

Well, I'm not gonna do that. For starters, 33 is not a milestone birthday. At best, it's like one of those distance markers on the highway that tells you how far until the actual milestone. Hell, I'm not even sure if 35 is a milestone or if it's just a multiple of 5.

I thought that instead of sharing the things I've learned, I'm gonna share the things I haven't learned. These are either things that I should know by now, but seem to keep forgetting (like the word for the mental block when you can't think of a certain word), or things that I just haven't learned (like how to drive a stick shift. Yes, really). Anyway, if any of you do have the answers to these, post 'em over to the right there. Or e-mail 'em to me if you're shy. Or just keep them to yourself, you smug bastard.

1) I don't know how to knit.

I'm not sure why this bothers me. I imagine the vast majority of you don't know how to knit. However, it seems like a really calming pastime, for starters, and it's also useful. How many hobbies can you think of where, when you're done, you wind up with something actually useful? You can't say that about collecting stamps or sleeping with football players.

Knowing how to knit is something that always comes in handy. Don't have a gift for your girlfriend and your 7-month anniversary is coming up? Knit her a pair of handcuffs. Your parents just moved into a hunting shack in Maine? Knit them an ashtray. Your brother's getting out of jail? Knit him a beer cozy. As the Pilgrims (or the Calvinists or some group of people who eschewed "fun" in favor of "Heaven") used to say, "Idle hands are the Devil's playground." I'd like the Devil to play somewhere other than my fingers, thank you.

2) I don't know how to successfully approach a woman on the subway.

I suppose this really extends to all forms of public transportation, but since I'm mainly on the New York City subway, and I see plenty of attractive women, this is the one that concerns me most. Of course, one hears about the time so-and-so was sitting next to this girl on Greyhound and they started talking and one thing led to another, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the question I'm always faced with is how did they start talking? Because, "Hey, come here often?" just doesn't seem to cut it, at least not unless one wants to be shot down in front of a vehicle full of strangers.

I do know of one success story, but it was really random. Two guys I used to work with were on a train and saw a pretty girl. Guy A, for reasons lost to the annals of time, asked her if she knew any drummers. It turns out she did, and Guy B wound up moving to Germany with her.

Maybe it's just a case of me psyching myself out, as I'm wont to do on occasion, but I just can't see an approach that doesn't make one seem - at best - terribly shallow. "Hi, all I know about you is that you're very pretty, not wearing a wedding ring, and don't mind being seen in public reading Soap Opera Digest, but I'm a totally normal guy and I'd like to take you to dinner some time based solely on the fact that my friends would all be jealous."

Or something like that.

A couple years ago, some singles group decided to make the last car on the subway the "Singles Car." The idea being that if everyone knew about this, there was at least a better chance that connections could be made because the odds were greater that the person in the car who caught your fancy was also in there because he/she was single. It was a resounding failure. Though it might have had the unintended effect of ridding the front cars of really ugly guys, which is never a bad thing.

3) I don't know how to read a football play.

I recently was given a Gamecube by a friend who couldn't find a single person to buy it. He had four games, including Madden '97 and NCAA Football. I haven't tried the NCAA game yet, as those teams mean pretty much nothing to me, but I've found that if I'm the Eagles (I'm always the Eagles) and I let John Madden call my defense for me, I can usually win by around 56 points over lesser teams like the Giants (quiet, you).

The reason I need Mr. Madden to call my defenses is, I swear to God, I cannot for the life of me read those diagrams they offer with the X's and O's and arrows and whatnot. I have no idea what the strong safety does or even where he stands. I know the blitz. But after blitzing ten or eleven times, the other team, even if it's a computer, starts to figure things out.

If anyone can explain that, or post an explanation on Wikipedia, I'd appreciate it.

4) I don't know the official etiquette involved when someone holds multiple doors open for you.

Do you thank them at the outset and assume it carries through? Keep that "Thanks" on the tip of your tongue until the final door and give them a collective thanks? Express appreciation at each door? (No, that's just crazy talk, right?) For God's sake, someone tell me!

5) I don't know why we let ourselves get so crazy regarding the opposite sex.

Well, I mean, I do know. It's called sex, procreation, schtupping, making the beast with two backs; pick a euphemism.

But what I don't get is how all of our instincts for self preservation fly out the window in the face of it all. And I'm as guilty of this as the next person (for the purposes of this column, the next person will be played by Stephen Tobolowsky).

To be fair, this one isn't actually about me. I was inspired while walking home from the subway last night, I saw a guy go storming out of a bar, followed by a woman yelling, "Kenny! Kenny! Wait! Why are you leaving? Kenny!" at which point, the guy (we'll call him "Kenny") turns around and starts yelling at her: "Get the hell away from me. What the hell was that in there? You're at the bar, with that guy's hands all over you, feeling you up right in front of everyone! I have never been so angry with you!"

This went on for a while, though I walked away at that point because a) it didn't seem like she was in physical danger and b) I needed my beauty rest.

But I surmised from the exchange that Kenny was not dating the girl in question, nor would he ever. I even came up with three good reasons for why I felt pretty certain this was the case: 1) she was at the bar with "that guy's hands all over" her. 2) Kenny, while tall, was quite portly. He reminded me of the mental image I always had of the Hardy Boys' erstwhile sidekick, Chet. Nice, but big and dumb. And 3) I've been Kenny at previous points in my life.

Kenny never gets the girl. Kenny gets girls, of course, sometimes. Kenny might even find that the girl he gets is significantly better than the one he wanted. But that only happens later, after he's gone through the crazy and made an ass of himself. Kenny, at least at the outset, is driven by irrational attachment to a girl he's not dating - and never will, for the same reasons that she's not interested. It's vicious; I'm not sure it's a circle.

I'm sure women have their own version of this home game. They probably pine for their best friend's husband or someone else equally out of their reach, and they probably go home and cry or get drunk on cheap Chablis and maybe even encourage the guy in question to cheat, but they rarely make a scene about it at Mo's Caribbean Bar & Mexican Grill. Not while I've been there, anyway.

But the craziness is there. It's always there. And if anyone has any idea why, and how to stop it or control it, could ya let me know? Or if not me, at least let Kenny know. That guy looked seriously creased.

Well, there you have it. As it turns out there's only five things I don't know. Funny, I expected it would be more than that. Maybe by the time I'm 34, I won't know seven things. One can only hope.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

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dr. jay gross
10.10.07 @ 1:31p

Adam, you open an interesting box. No one knows all the answers, but the wise man knows who to go to to find the information to each of his questions. Henry Ford said that his success was built on knowing many people who knew the answers to many things. Simplicity and listening is all the knowledge any of us ever needs.

'Thank you' is spoken as each door is open for you.

adam kraemer
10.10.07 @ 1:36p

See? Now I know.

And knowing is half the battle.

bill copeland
10.10.07 @ 3:56p

1) No clue.
2) Even less of a clue.
3) Tough to explain via Wikipedia. But I could explain in person, though not using Dave Brown and the 1997 New York Giants.
4) I guess Jay's right. I hate that situation.
5) Kenny should move in with her.

Happy birthday!

lucy lediaev
10.10.07 @ 6:53p

Adam--oh great font of knowledge,
May we assume that we can ask you any question, with the exception of the five here, and receive a valid and useful answer? It's nice to know that I'll no longer need to do Google searches to answer all of the random questions that occur to me on any given day or the questions that my 6-year-old granddaughter constantly poses. May I start with a few that have troubled me:

*Is God a man or a woman?
*What primate was the missing link between ape and man?
*Is Elvis really dead?
*Will the Iraq war ever end?
*Do highlanders wear anything under their kilts? If not, do they get a rash from their wool tartans?

I can think of a lot more, but I think I should be kind and let you answer just a few questions per day.

robert melos
10.11.07 @ 1:47a

Knitting is overrated.
What kind of creep picks a girl up on the--um, sorry. No offense. I suppose it can happen, but I'm sure I wouldn't go out with someone picking me up on public transportation.
For some reason I do know how to real a football play. I don't understand the football all that much, but I can read the plays.
Always thank everyone for everything.
The opposite sex drives everyone crazy, and sometimes the same sex does too.

Happy Birthday!


What is the best song ever written?
Why was I born?
Who will be the next President added to Mount Rushmore?
Yes or no?
50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s?
Why was the only one who could ever reach me the son of a preacher man?

And finally advice. Every birthday is a milestone because you may not have another.

alex b
10.11.07 @ 8:10a

Huh? What?

And why, oh WHY, did you pick Stephen Tobolowsky?


mike julianelle
10.11.07 @ 4:36p

Here's one along the lines of when to thank - when walking with a lady and entering a revolving door, do you:

1) allow the lady to go first and push the door harder to help her through


2) go first yourself in order to relieve her of having to push much at all?

The second option seems to run counter to typical chivalry, but might actually make it easier for the lady...

alex b
10.11.07 @ 5:18p

I've actually seen guys go first, then stand against a heavy door to keep it open to let me through. Gotta back Mike up on that one- it's chivalrous.

adam kraemer
10.12.07 @ 9:32a

Okay, to answer all of your questions, in order:

My uncle Howie.
Yes, but not the way they said. If he were alive today, he'd be in his early '70s and we all know that human beings can't live that long.
Yes. When the world ends on December 12, 2012.
No. Vaseline.
"I Don't Like Mondays," Boomtown Rats
Because humans don't hatch.
Nixon. Don't ask.
Early '90s.
He combined his father's way with words with an indescribable charisma that probably came from years on the road.
"Ned? Ned Ryerson?!"
Either is chivalrous; as long as you don't invite yourself into her partition. It's like getting into a taxi; do you let her get in first and then have to slide all the way over? Probably.

Hope that helped.

lisa r
10.12.07 @ 11:10a

Joe needs to start an Adam Answers All segment. :)

iris corbin
1.5.08 @ 11:02p

2) This girl I sort of know was dog sitting for her aunt in New York City. You know how it goes: wealthy aunt goes on vacation, needs someone to walk the dog, and you get to stay in a fabulous Manhattan apartment for a week or so. Great. I won't even charge you a fee.

Well, a few days into it, the dog dies. Not as bad as it sounds. The dog was old, and auntie was very understanding about it on the phone. The problem now is what to do with an 85-pound canine carcass.

The girl somehow tracks down a doggie disposal place in the city. All she needs to do is get the dog there, and of course, she has no car.

Girl finds auntie's biggest, wheeled suitcase, stuffs the body in, and ventures onto the subway. While there she meets a really cute guy. They start talking (sorry, Adam, the girl can't remember what the opening line was). They totally hit it off, have a great conversation, they just click.

Wow, this kind of thing never happens on the New York subway. It's going so well, he gets off at her stop with her, even though it's not his stop. The brand new couple goes up to street level. As they exchange digits, he asks the pretty girl, "So what's in that suitcase, anyway?"

Panicking, she says the first thing that comes to her mind: "I'm taking electronics to my grandmother."

This lovely man punches the girl in the face, knocks her out, and bolts with the suitcase. She awoke a few seconds later.

I'd give anything to hear his telling of the story: "So I drag the suitcase all the way home, and guess what's inside?"

This is why women hesitate to talk to strange men on the subway.

4) When the first door is held open, say "thank you." At the second, mutter a quick "thanks."


adam kraemer
1.6.08 @ 6:42p

That may be both the best and the worst story ever. I do feel like the loss of the suitcase was pretty much going to happen anyway. No one likes using luggage that once held a carcass of any sort.

For the record, I would never knock out a woman I just met for a bag full of whatever electronics her grandmother needed.

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