Monday, January 5, 2009
The Pros and Cons of Shiny Elbows
And you thought he found this fire-fly lit path that no one knew about?
So the other day on a cold beach in the Big Sur or maybe it was San Diego, my friend 3D commented on how dirty my elbows were. As you might expect, it led to a bit of an indignant exchange between us which ended with the others being brought into the conversation to help us compare whose elbows were cleaner. Turns out, 3D beat everyone hollow - not because he has cleaner elbows, but simply because a life-time's worth of scrubbing them in the shower has produced a pair of preternaturally shiny elbows on him. The appearance of the shiny pink elbows sparked off a bit of a debate on whether these provided a net advantage for their possessor or a net disadvantage. While we didn't have sufficient time that particular day to fully discuss the merits or lack there-of of unnaturally shiny elbows, I've had time since then to carry out fairly extensive and diligent research and also put some thought into it. Its valuable to spend some time understanding this subject not simply because there are some great career ideas for OSEs but also because of its impact on the debate about evolution. (For sake of brevity I shall refer to the owner of the shiny elbows as OSEs in the remainder of this post)
Pros of Exceedingly Shiny Elbows:
a) You don't need to carry torches when exploring the caves of La Jolla in kayaks...The OSE can simply lead the way
b) If your breaklights fail, a friendly OSE can be installed in the rear seat of the car and requested to sit with shoulders spread along the back-rest, elbows pointing backwards and out of the rear wind-screen
c) When lost flint-less in the woods, the OSE can use his/her elbows to concentrate sunlight on kindling and light a fire to roast the assorted snails that've been caught. The game-show Survivor is believed to have rules prohibiting known OSEs from participating in it - due to the unfair advantage that they gain from an OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)-level propensity to scrub.
d) A throng of salaried OSEs hiding in bushes lining a winding path, elbows pointing outwards, can help create a beautiful, romantic back-drop for a Valentine-night stroll when fire-flies are in short supply. Creating and managing OSE-lit events could very well be the next sunrise industry - except they'd be most effective at sunset.
e) When lost at sea, OSEs can use their elbows to send out SOS signals using Morse code - intimating passing ships about their where-abouts. For this reason, OSEs are known to survive in greater numbers during ship-wrecks than those not blessed with super-shiny elbows.
Cons of Especially Shiny Elbows:
Given the multiple substantial benefits that shiny elbows seem to provide, one would expect, assuming that Darwin was correct, that there would be a much higher number of people obsessively scrubbing elbows in showers or (for the lazy ones amongst us) rubbing phosphorus onto them. The reason that is not so, I believe, is due to the even greater drawbacks that unusually shiny elbows have.
Anthropologists and ethnographers estimate that the OSE population probably peaked in the Palaeolithic age when fire had been discovered but means of making it were not easily available. Shiny elbows were considered an asset for a short period due to their utility in starting a fire to cook the day’s hunt. However scrubbing while showering quickly declined as a practice once it became clear that, once the fire was out and darkness had rolled back in; significantly shiny elbows helped mammoths and saber-toothed tigers find much-needed nourishment.
In modern times, the absence of laws against smoking-while-driving are responsible for maintaining an evolutionary check on OSE populations. Sitting in the car with the windows rolled down and smoking a cigarette has been known to cause many an accident due to the temporary blinding effect of the elbows on drivers in the vehicles traveling behind the OSE. The low numbers of OSEs therefore actually provide backing, rather than a challenge, for the theory of evolution.
In these times of religious intolerance where the existence of the Flying Sphaggeti Monster is disputed and the validity of the theory of evolution challenged on a daily basis; every piece of evidence that can be brought to bear on the side of science is an invaluable addition to the side of rationality and tolerance. So while by themselves scarily shiny elbows might not be an asset to their owners, they do provide, by their very existence, a net benefit to society.