On Boiling Eggs, William Shakespeare, and Richard Feynman

Not long ago, I boiled a dozen eggs.

After accidentally misquoting Shakespeare, while watching these eggs boil (“Boil, boil, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble”), I then correctly quoted Shakespeare at the eggs, by shouting, “You egg!” at them, as they boiled.

What . . . you’ve never talked to your food? If not, just try it some time, for it makes life more interesting. If you’re worried about people thinking you’re crazy, I have another quote, from the physicist Richard Feynman, for you to consider:  “What do you care what other people think?”

Little seems to be going right today, for correctly quoting Shakespeare meant being, at the same time, mathematically incorrect. Twelve and one are, of course, not the same number, but I’m not willing to deliberately misquote Shakespeare, for that would be, well, wrong.

I was then asked, by someone who heard me, um, shouting at boiling eggs, exactly which of Shakespeare’s plays it is, in which the line “you egg” appears. Since I did not know the answer to this question, I immediately used this situation as an opportunity to test the alleged omniscience of Google, which I test, and re-test, frequently. (So far, Google always passes these experimental tests, but I will post an announcement here if this fact ever changes.) I also googled my earlier, failed attempt to quote Shakespeare, which is how I now know that I was misquoting him.

In case you’re wondering why I was fact-checking myself, here’s another Feynman quote, offered as explanation:  “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” Those are words to live by — and I do.

Not only did Google know that the two-word quote I remembered (from 10th grade English class, over thirty years ago, simply because I found it funny) comes from Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 2, but it also, very helpfully, showed me the way to the YouTube video which you can see below.

For those few readers of my blog who have not already noticed this, I lead a strange life.

Of course, I certainly wouldn’t want a normal one, but, clearly, I don’t need to worry about that.

¿Es usted normal?

It took some time for me to figure out that things are seriously screwed up. One of the early indicators involved this question, and the reaction to my answer to it, which was asked to me in Spanish class, 7th grade.

The exercise was simple. A list of adjectives appeared in the textbook, and we were going down the row, with the teacher asking each student, in turn, “Are you [adjective]?” in Spanish, and then the student answering, also in Spanish. Previous students had declared whether they were or were not tall, funny, popular, etc. It didn’t take long to figure out the pattern, and that I would soon be asked, yes or no, if the word “normal” described me.

I didn’t have any trouble with the question itself — the answer seemed quite self-evident — but I did want my translation to be ready. And so, it was.

My turn. “¿Roberto, es usted normal?

My instantaneous reply:  “No, yo no soy normal.”

I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the other students up until this point, but this changed quickly, amidst the hysterical laughter which ensued, with things like “You aren’t normal?” being shrieked, with glee, above the general hilarity. Another such comment I remember: “Well, what are you, then?”

I knew damn well I wasn’t like any of them, nor did I want to be. The drive to fit in, be one with the crowd, conform — however you want to put it — has always been missing from my personality. What’s more, I’m delighted that it is. I’m not a slave to the opinions of others. I’m not normal now, any more than I was in 7th grade.

To me, “normal” implies the following:  typical, ordinary, average, and boring.  If I had nothing different about me — no “abnormal” traits — then what would be the point of my existence in the first place?

I was genuinely surprised by this in the 7th grade. It doesn’t surprise me any more when things like this happen, having had decades to get used to the “normality police,” who seem to be everywhere. This experience, way back in the 7th grade, was eye-opening for me.

So, over 30 years later:  no, yo no soy normal. Nor will I ever be. What’s more, I still don’t understand why anyone else, then or now, would want to apply the word “normal” to themselves. This is a mystery I doubt I will ever solve, for I do not even come close to understanding it.