Superior mediocrity


By Bill Derby

“Why, he’s above average in some things and below average in others,” explained my third grade teacher as my mother listened. My teacher was telling what she thought was wrong with my learning ability. I was reading on a sub-par level, or below average. I was playing catch up with other students who had attended kindergarten, which I hadn’t. I was tagged.

That means I was mediocre, average, ordinary, middle-of-the-road, run of the mill, second rate, pedestrian and plain old commonplace. I imagined other kids saying, “There goes a run of the mill, pedestrian third-grader.”

Today, I have overcome my commonplace average existence displaying superior mediocrity. In fact a publisher who worked for me in South Dakota expressed his confidence in that fact when I told him I had started writing a weekly column. I inquired if he had any ideas for me since I was getting near the bottom of the well with fading memory headed for mediocrity.

Tony Bender, who has won top honors a number of times for his humorous columns in the National Newspaper Association wrote: “As for column writing, my advice is, don’t fear mediocrity. Often I find inspiration when I expect mediocrity and am mired in mediocrity when I expect inspiration. No one homers every time out. But if you hit enough, folks will grant you a walk once in a while.”

According to Tony I may have achieved superior mediocrity. That means I’ve made it a hair above average, maybe. To prove the justification, see if you can find some commonplace, mediocre oxymorons in the following:

“We were invited by our guest host to enjoy some jumbo shrimp, which were mutually exclusive in this part of the country. They were pretty ugly and a little big for my taste. But you could tell they were recently new but had been severely killed by union workers. They were served with mild jalapenos and cat fish. A couple shrimp had freezer burn and the sauce was found missing.

“The hostess wore tight slacks and seemed somewhat passive aggressive but was actually terribly pleased with our small crowd. She played us some rap music, which gave us synthetic natural gas. We understood though since she worked in a government organization in military intelligence.

“Good grief, I thought, she is serving in plastic glasses on a committed schedule. I should act naturally because we were being served a 12-ounce pound cake. It’s the same difference I thought. My wife and I had a violent agreement and clearly misunderstood it was a genuine imitation of airline food.

Although the food was terribly good it gave me a terrific headache. It made me feel like a resident alien living by the sanitary landfill. You could hear the deafening silence. It was just like silent screaming or shouting whispers between silent women. We were in a fine mess and I felt like a mournful optimist.”

There you go, a perfect example of superior mediocrity. There are 40 oxymorons in the previous little story. Did you find them? Oxymorons are contradictory terms.

Tony and his wife, Julie, live on the frozen tundra of North Dakota, own two newspapers, and have two children, one spastic dog and a cat named Karma. Tony also raises saltwater fish in his 400-gallon aquarium but has trouble keeping it thawed. Thanks for the advice Tony.


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