A Handsome Dog


     I read The New Yorker’s economics columnist James Surowiecki, because there is absolutely nothing going on in my life.
     This week he wrote that “better-looking men” earn $230,000 more over their lifetime than “average looking” men, and, I presume, $747,500 more than “uglier men” (who earn 13 percent less, rather than 4 percent less), according to “studies on the role that appearance plays in the workplace,” which Surowiecki cites.
     I love studies like this, and the columnists who quote them – in the same way I love stepping over drunks sleeping it off on an icy sidewalk.
     The problem with Surowiecki’s thumb-sucker is that he never defines what a “better-looking” man is, nor an “average looking” man, nor an “uglier” man. Nor could he define them, in, oh, say, 116 years, 9 months, 14 days and 11 minutes.
     Mark Twain wrote the greatest version of a “study” like this, in “Life on the Mississippi,” describing how the Mississippi River shortened itself by jumping its banks during floods: “In the space of 176 years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself 242 miles. That is an average of a trifle over 1-1/3 mile per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that 742 years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only 1-¾ miles long … There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”
     Nonetheless, after reading Surowiecki’s piece, I became alarmed.
     Could it be that I achieved my own success because I’m such a handsome devil?
     I decided to investigate. Scientifically. My Primal Question was: Could my success as an editor at Courthouse News Service be attributed not to my talent, but to my good looks?
     Here are the results of my scientific, or if you prefer, economic, study.
     The doyenne of the Courthouse News office, the divine Mary Shimabukuro, replied: “Somewhat. Probably your dog, mostly.”
     I considered this somewhat unfair, though I do have a handsome dog. (That’s Chester in the puppy picture.)
     I asked Mary to transfer me to the boss, Bill Girdner, the founder and eminence grise of Courthouse News.
     In response to my question, I heard 10 seconds of gargling, strangled noises.
     Forsaking the urge to call 911, because what the hell, the next boss might be better, I finally heard Bill say: “I think us old dogs need to stay in the woods.”
     Why, I asked, do you and Mary attribute my success to dogs?
     The boss replied: “She attributed it to dogs too?”
     With a touch of umbrage, I pursued my scientific quest.
     I asked my older brother, David, who, I understand, held me tenderly in his arms the day I returned from the hospital, then devoted the next 17 years of his life to beating me up, until he, thank God for small favors, went away to college.
     My brother said: “It seems pretty clear to me that there is an absolute and possibly direct correlation between the success you even now enjoy and your appearance. I don’t see how anyone, looking at you, could doubt that. Whether this is fair or unfair I leave for others to judge.”
     I asked an Anonymous Attorney, who hath known me, lo, these 40 years. He ignored my personal plight to consider the larger question: “Back when I had a waist and hair, I did profit, fairly or not, in the workplace – and their names were Claudina, Doris, Janelle, Cathy, Maria, Karen and Donnie.”
     I asked the editor of a large, right-wing, Southern California newspaper, who hired me long ago. He replied: “It’s why I hired you, you studmuffin.”
     I am withholding this editor’s name until it might do me some good.
     Finally, I asked the son of the dearly beloved attorney with whom I share my life. He is seeking entrance to law school. He said that my looks were “the only plausible explanation” for my success.
     Thanks, dude. Good luck on that reference.

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