Maybe it's because I spent grades kindergarten through eight in a rural school that never had more than five pupils. (I was the only person in my high school physical education class who didn't know how to play softball.) Maybe it's because we didn't have television when I was a kid. Maybe it's because I spent most of my teenage years reading instead of dragging Main Street or sneaking out to illicit parties.
Whatever the reason, there is a surprising amount of stuff "everyone" knows that I don't. Not just who Snooki and Lady Gaga are, or whether the Kardashian sisters actually do anything or simply are famous for being famous. I'm talking about a more fundamental layer of shared cultural background that I seem to have missed.
Every now and then I am reminded of some odd bit of apparently common knowledge that isn't common for me. These are things everyone else seems to understand and take for granted, but I don't get. Either I've never had a chance to learn them, I've never needed the information, or—more likely—I never wanted to admit my ignorance by asking.
Now, for the first time ever, the depths of my ignorance are about to be revealed. You read it here first, folks. These are some of the things I don't know:
1. Jumping-rope rhymes. As far as I can remember, I have never chanted one in my life.
2. When a vehicle with a standard transmission won't start, and you push or pull it to get it moving and then start it by "popping the clutch," how exactly do you do that? Do you begin with the clutch in, then let it out at the crucial moment? Or do you push it in? Or push it in and then let it out? Confusion over this issue is probably the major reason I have always driven an automatic. At least I know exactly what to do if that ever fails to start: dig out my cell phone and call AAA.
3. How exactly do you play "Rock, Paper, Scissors?"
4. I've done enough hiking to be able to identify poison ivy. I'm rather too familiar with thistles and creeping Jenny, since the yard is full of them. But what precisely does a pot plant look like? Yes, I've seen pictures, but to the best of my knowledge I've never seen one in the flesh. (Of course, since I'm not sure what they look like, how would I know?) The stuff could be flourishing in the overgrown back half of our yard right this very minute, along with the thistles and that one tall asparagus plant. If anybody should ever discover marijuana growing wild back there, could I go to jail?
5. Did Gilligan and company ever get off that island? If so, how?
Instead of whining about it, of course, I could just look up some of this stuff online. Or maybe I should focus on all the other things I do know. Like what a "gerund" is, or a "stoat." Or what part of a car in England is called the "bonnet." Or what Harry Truman's middle initial stands for. I'd be perfectly willing to enlighten you on any of those important facts.
Right after you explain how to pop a clutch.