Thursday 29 Sep 2016

The Rabbit Hole
David Simmonds

I think my computer is winning the fight to pull me down the rabbit hole of useless information. It won a round the other day by a convincing margin.

I was powering down, my computer, to begin my afternoon meditation on the pressing issues of the day. Whom must we trust with the keys to Canada’s public purse? How do I to discharge my duty to my neighbours in Japan? How do they get the jam inside the new Tim Horton’s strawberry banana donut? Then the computer very casually said, “I guess you don’t really care who the 2011 winners of the Canada’s Most Trusted Brands awards are”?

“No, I don’t,” I replied.

“It’ll only take a minute,” replied the computer. “I wonder whether Pepto-Bismol will hold on to its 2010 crown as Canada’s most trusted stomach ailment remedy?”

“Well, now you mention it...,” I thought. No harm in letting me lunch digest for another minute or two. It gives me a little nugget of information to use in social situations to show off my worldliness.

As it turns out, I’ll have to wait a little longer. Only some of the category announcements are out; leaked by the winners. Toyota dealers are doing a victory dance about being named passenger car manufacturer of the year, a three-peat. The Re/Max head office has spread news of its retention of the residential retailer crown. Even Sun Life has sent out a restrained press release with an actuarially verified calculation showing how it has improved its winning vote total, in repeating as top life insurance company of the year. 

The 2010 results are out there and now I must know the 2011 score. Can Pepto-Bismol retain its title belt? That’s only the beginning of the drama. Will Folgers outflank Maxwell House in the ground coffee category? Can the EverReady Energizer battery pull ahead of the Duracell? Will Kellogg’s hang on to the breakfast cereal manufacturer crown or give way to an old rival like General Mills or a dark horse such as Weetabix? Is this the year Knorr Soups finally beats Campbell Soup? Will last year’s ties, between TD Canada Trust and RBC Royal Bank and between Best Western and Holiday Inn, finally be broken? How can Blackberry be the most trusted mobile media device, even though Apple is the most trusted mobile entertainment device? Dare we ask whether Old Spice and Secret are going to continue, respectively, as male and female deodorants of the year?

An hour later, my computer spoke just one word: “gotcha.” It was right. I hung my head in shame. Although surveys, such as this one, must mean something to people in the marketing business, each is irrelevant to me. Almost anything else I might have chosen to do with my time would have better enriched my life. I have ingested a narcotic. The rabbit hole sucks down.

Wallowing in my failure of self-control, I began to feed my “’most’ list” habit. I started to plumb last summer’s list of Most Trusted Canadians. David Suzuki came out on top, followed by Mike Holmes, Michael J. Fox, HRH QE II and Lloyd Robertson. The next five were Sheila Fraser, Stephen Lewis, Stephen Harper, Peter Mansbridge and Rick Hillier. It’s all very interesting.

Now some sense can be made of the enhanced goatee resident on the chin of Don Cherry: he’s hoping to crack the top 10 by emulating the leader. If we see Peter Mansbridge going shirtless, with overalls, on “The National,” we’ll know why: it’s a matter of personal pride to overtake Robertson and he’ll do what it takes. Just where, may we ask, are Tommy Hunter, Jean Beliveau and the Polkaroo? How the sands shift under our feet!

Then I was on to the list of Canada’s Top 25 Best Places to Live. How could Ottawa - Ottawa! - emerge on top two years in a row? The only explanation I could come up with was that Quinte West was not included in the survey. Kingston did well at fourth, although it slipped from second last year, Belleville was a disappointing 55th, although it was up from 103rd place. Toronto seemed accurately placed at 88th, just behind Ingersoll.

The County was not included in the survey either, although I experienced a minor heart skip when I saw Wellington described as the winner of the ‘best population growth’ category. Make that “Centre Wellington,” a place near Fergus.

At some point, I stepped back and said, “You’d have to be an idiot to get hooked on this stuff.”

“My point exactly,” replied the computer. 

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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