According To A Recent Study

By Jim Hagarty

You can’t really claim to be with it these days unless you’ve been involved in a study. Either the subject of one or the person doing the studying.

We’ve become, let’s face it, a society of studiers. Men are studying women. Women are studying men. Women are studying women. Both sexes are studying sex. And food. And sex. And pollution. And sex. And civil rights.

And sex.

It works like this. Somebody wonders whether or not there’s a connection between pea soup and bladder infections. So, he wanders around asking a bunch of pea soup eaters about their peas. He tabulates the replies, figures out a few conclusions and sends off copies of the results to the media. Next day, front page: Study shows pea soup keeps people going. Author grants TV interviews. Publishes hardcover book. Spends winter in Jamaica.

Person B reads the study, says, “Hold on, now. This pea guy’s full of beans,” and heads off to do a counter study which reveals, to no one’s surprise, that people can eat pea soup till they look like it and there’s no need to pass it up. Pea soup companies praise the report and use it in their ads. Pea soup haters deny its findings. Person B flies off to Bermuda in December.

Somebody really ought to start studying the studiers. A good study might just show that the balls of their feet were tickled too much when they were babies or not enough or that they only got half their minimum daily requirement of hugs. Or that they got hugged too tightly too often causing a reduction on the flow of blood and oxygen to their brains.

Or maybe somebody should study all the rest of us to find out why we think some self-proclaimed expert in a shirt and tie and carrying a clipboard and calculator is an authority on anything because he tallied up the answers on a few questionnaires he sent out, questionnaires none of us asked him to send us and most of us didn’t send back.

Imagine the study-nut as a child, surveying all the other nursery school students in his class to see whether they believed rest time lasted long enough, polling his brothers and sisters to see if they thought broccoli was an appropriate food to tell a kid he had to eat or no ice cream, and monitoring his parents’ moods to see what sorts of activities were most likely to cause them to turn red in the face and say bad words.

I’ve seen some of these children carrying out a few of their early studies. I’ve watched them dive off coffee tables onto their heads to see whether the resulting impact can be expected to produce any corresponding activity in their tear ducts. I’ve looked on as they’ve conducted tests to see if a bowl of supper thrown upside down on a clean kitchen floor will bring on any signs of distress in a tired parent. And they’re forever carrying out consumer studies on the strength of glass in relation to stones, on whether record albums lying on a couch can withstand the impact of a child’s bouncing buttocks and whether a cat dragged across a lawn by its tail will meow more than once.

In their teenage years, these future professional studiers experiment to see how many pimples can be crowded onto one human face, how angry the average teacher can be made during a 37-minute class and if it’s possible for parents to believe that 14-year-old people can forget until 3 a.m. that they were supposed to be home in their beds by 10 p.m.

Later, on the trail to that first big career job, the young adult studier interviews a lot of potential employers to see if any of them will believe any of the following statements: 1. I enjoy working hard and keeping busy; 2. I guess you could call me a self-starter; 3. Money is not a motivating factor with me; 4. My favourite pasttimes are reading, jogging, playing Mozart on the piano and learning new languages; 5. My goal in life is to help others in any small way I can and to contribute to the well-being of my family, my community and my country.

To be honest, I’ve wanted for a long time to get in on this study thing before it goes the way of the love-in, the walk-a-thon, the happy-face button and the self-help book. I sure could use a winter in the sun. But when I really get looking at it, I realize how hard it is to find anything in 1987 that hasn’t already been studied.

So someday, I’m going to release my findings about this guy that sits five stools down from me in the coffeeshop every night. I’ve been studying him for years as we’ve sat there emptying our mugs and although I’ve never spoken to him nor he to me, I’ve come to some startling conclusions concerning the flaws in his character.

And I think I’ll release the study soon because it occurs to me now that he’s been studying me back all this time and may just be thinking about publishing a study of his own.

That’d be just like him to do that.

My New Diet

By Jim Hagarty

I had an interview with my dietitian on Monday. The consultation was very useful but I became confused with the various mixed messages she kept sending me. I should have taken a notebook and pen with me and written a few things down because since I’ve arrived back home, I have been unclear about a few details regarding my way ahead food-wise.

I could be wrong but I believe she advised me to drink at least eight glasses of pop a day and consume two family-size bags of potato chips weekly (not daily). I am also to eat one pound of bacon every two days, nothing but white bread, and if possible, a medium-sized (not large) slice of chocolate cake with every meal.

It is also important that I eat at least one cherry pie every week and to treat myself, a cherry cheesecake once a month. (If you get too serious about your diet, you won’t keep it up.) A bag of chocolate chips cookies should round out my weekly menu and between meals, I should aim to eat a chocolate bar, but not worry if I miss once in a while.

It is also apparently vital that I have a bagful of caramel popcorn (all to myself) while I am watching TV three or maybe four times a week (she was not very clear on this point). Pancakes and sausages for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays but I am to use real maple syrup only, none of the fake stuff. This is important.

Oh, and I believe she said I was to eat as much pizza as possible every week, maybe three or four times, but no more than seven toppings on any one pizza. Also, I should work in three or four visits to hamburger joints every seven days for the protein.

I hope I haven’t forgotten anything.

Oh yes, I did.

I am supposed to have one carrot a week – no more.

At our next meeting, I am going to ask her to clarify some of these items to make sure I have them right. We will be talking about exercise at that session but when the subject came up on Monday, she frowned. I have a feeling she is going to advise me against it. I am willing to do whatever she tells me to.

My Research Project

By Jim Hagarty

I am going after a research grant for a five-year study of the brain of a cat. I believe it will take me four years and 364 days to find the brain first, and one day to study it. Today our cat Luigi stuck his head in the dog’s bowl and began gnawing away on the kibble there. That takes a special kind of stupid, given the location of the dog who was about three feet away. I need to find out what causes a cat to do that. I will ask the Research Council for $100,000, or $50, whatever they can afford.