I was thinking about thinking the other day. I didn’t come up with anything profound, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
Mary Ellen often says to me after a slip-up on my part, “What were you thinking?”
Admittedly, I probably wasn’t thinking at all, so I resent the sarcasm. My wife will also direct me, especially if am looking for a lost wallet or car keys, to “think hard.” OK. I will try, but at my age I don’t want to hurt myself.
I must overthink things because when I wrote my book “Mornings with Barney,” Heidi, my proofreader, did a word search through my final manuscript and found the phrase “I think” about 60 times in 220 pages. “I think Barney knew he was on television” … “I think I had the most fun job in TV” …. What was I thinking?
“It’s a good thing you have a proofreader,” you might say to me. Ya think?
Yes, I think a lot of people, especially writers, rely on the word “think” because we lack self-
assurance, and you just read a very good example of that in this sentence. Meteorologists never say, “I think it is going to rain.” Maybe they should. A little humility goes a long way. My barber never ever says, “I think this time I’ll give you a good haircut.” Come to think of it, I wish he would say that.
Over the years, my wife has made the mistake of asking my advice. “Dick, do you think we need to buy a new dishwasher?” “Let me think about it,” is my standard response.
This is a bunch of hooey, of course. I’m not going to think about that. What I am really going to do is totally forget about the question until Mary Ellen asks me again, and then I’ll tell her that after careful reflection I am going to leave it up to her. Occasionally, I do say, “I’ll sleep on it,” which never happens because I hardly ever sleep on anything except a full stomach.
I wonder if prehistoric humans realized that it was inside their noggin where all the thinking was going on. What did they do when they were trying to remember something like, “Where did I leave my spear?” Instead of banging their heads against the cave walls, maybe the guys rubbed their bellies. I think you get the point.
When I was a teacher, a student came up to me after class to explain his poor performance on an exam. “I knew the answer to that question, Mr. Wolfsie,” he said, pointing to where he hadn’t filled in the blank. “I just couldn’t think of it.”
I had always scoffed at this excuse, but when I turned 60, I realized how many people I knew, and I couldn’t think of any of their names. I’m sad it’s too late to change Ezra’s grade.
Consider this: “If you think this column wasn’t any good, you have another thing coming.” Thing? Don’t you have another “think” coming? Who invented that stupid phrase, anyway? Some government think tank, I’m sure.
I think I have written just about enough on this topic. Actually, I am quite sure of it.
Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.