For this new year, I have decided to skip making resolutions and pose some nagging questions instead. These long-unanswered questions demonstrate more staying power than resolutions do anyhow, so here goes:

  • What happened to the United Nations’ peacekeeping role around the globe? How did the United States of America get saddled with the job – and enormous expense – of global policeman? Only a few years ago, an international crisis called for a peacekeeping force composed of member nations of the UN. Now nobody mentions it. Why?
  • Why should I be asked to “Press 1 for English?” Isn’t this America and isn’t English the language we speak? Yes! And to those merchants who confront their customers with this tomfoolery, I say: I never have and I never will press 1 for English, so “Puesto que en su pipa y el humo!”
  • I give up: How much wood WOULD a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?
  • And while we’re mulling that perennial riddle, once and for all, who IS on third?
  • Speaking of riddles, here’s one my grandfather loved, so, obviously, it’s been around a while (and is still awaiting an answer): If a squirrel running up and down a log 40-feet long gains a foot per second with each circuit, how long will it be before he is going both ways at the same time?
  • How did algebra ever become part of the core curriculum in high school – and why is it still there? I haven’t used algebra since I took the final exam, and I don’t know anybody who has. (P.S.: I made a C+ on the final exam and was glad to get it?)
  • How many pints go into a gallon? (And if you know the answer, maybe you could tell my long-suffering Aunt Clara how many pints went into my Uncle Jasper, her late husband. His cause of death remains a mystery, but we can rule out thirst.)
  • Who designed the Ocean Highway’s Median Project in Pawleys Island, S.C., and why has he not been horsewhipped in public?
  • And if he still has a job designing highways, why? (Editor’s Note: In its, uh, wisdom, the S.C. Highway Dept. eliminated the suicide lane on Pawleys Island’s busy Ocean Highway in favor of a raised median that allows motorists to cross the highway at only two or three spots. In short, state bureaucrats fixed something that wasn’t broken.)
  • Why can’t network sports announcers pronounce “Clemson“ correctly? They all say “Clemzon” – and that’s after hanging around the town and the team for a week prior to the game, and never once hearing anybody local (or even in the whole state) pronounce the name that way. (Let’s exempt NBC’s Al Michaels from this condemnation; the poor fellow, who grew up in Brooklyn, NY, can’t even pronounce “coffee.” He calls it “quaffee.”
  • Where does ISIS get all the equipment it uses to wage war around the clock? Bombs, bullets, rockets, rocket launchers, grenades, electronics, knives, guns, you name it – who supplies these weapons? How are they paid for, how shipped? And from where? Maybe we’re bombing in the wrong places.
  • Why does water expand when it freezes, while everything else contracts?
  • Why don’t we switch to a value-added tax system and get rid of the time-consuming, complicated, expensive annual tax-paying system we now have? Think of the savings in the cost of paper and manpower.
  • This isn’t one of my questions, but I couldn’t resist including it: “If a child refuses to sleep during nap time, is he guilty of resisting a rest?”
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Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.

  1. Will Cantrell

    Bob: I enjoyed this piece. It gave me a few laughs which I can definitely use. More importantly, it shows that you’re one up on the rest of us (or at least me). Not only do I not have any of life’s answers, hell I don’t even know the questions. Good piece. Will

  2. Eileen Dight

    “His cause of death remains a mystery but we can rule out thirst.” Wish I’d written that!

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