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VGG: How Stephen Hawking ruined my dinner.
by Galen Black

Once a month I treat myself to a nice dinner. It's always the same restaurant and always the same meal, because special treats to oneself should be consistent. On the 12th of every month I go to a local restaurant named Del Shannon's -- not the same Del Shannon that sang "Runaway" back in the '60s. I order the Filet Mignon with the roasted red potatoes, vegetable medley, and sourdough rolls. I consider it the perfect meal.

During my most recent special dinner, I was disturbed by a conversation I overheard. Two couples were sitting at the table next to mine. One couple was older, probably in their mid-60s, and the other couple was in their mid-30s.

I didn't hear the beginning of the exchange, but I heard one person say the words, "Stephen who?" Those words were followed by "Stephen Hawking." The conversation continued.

"Who's Stephen Hawking?"

"Stephen Hawking is that real smart dude that lives in a wheelchair. I saw this story about him on television. He's this complete cripple, but he's ultra smart. He wrote a whole book about how the universe began. I think he's even deaf and dumb, but not like Helen Keller. You could barely understand her, 'Ah wahnnt ah glahss ah waada.' He gets to speak through a computer, so his voice is all cool and computerized. Oh, and he teaches over in England at Cambridge and holds the same job Sir Isaac Newton held. He's the smartest man alive. As far as cripps go, he's about as cool as they get."

I couldn't believe I was hearing this conversation in the 21st century. I couldn't believe the people having this conversation were not eight years old. I stood up from my dinner, removed the napkin from the collar of my shirt, threw it down on top of my steak, and stormed over to the other table.

"You sir, are an idiot!" I said to the man who had so eloquently related the story of Stephen Hawking.

Everyone at the table looked at me in a stunned silence. I took this chance to continue my speech.

"I can't believe I am hearing this discussion from a table full of adults. This is insane and I can't believe I have to tell you this.

"There is no such person as Stephen Hawking. There isn't this mystical smart superhuman being that roams around the earth in a magical wheelchair teaching the world how the universe began. Use your head, for God sake! Do you think he flies around and hides toys in the yard for all the kids in the world to find on St. Valentine's morning? This is ridiculous."

The younger of the two women looked up at me. "It is true," she said meekly. "He is real. I saw him on TV last night. He was...."

I interrupted her. "That was TELEVISION! It's not real! I got news for you sister, Richie and Fonzie and the gang never drag-raced in the streets of Milwaukee. Joanie never loved Chachi. And that guy who tells you all those interesting stories from around the world everyday at 6, and then again at 11, makes it all up. That's why they call it "television," because it isn't real! Now if you will excuse me, my napkin is soaking up all the catsup off of my filet mignon."

I turned to go back to my seat and the older of the two gentlemen at the table -- the one I guessed was the father of the younger man -- asked me why I had to say anything.

"Because old man, you wouldn't! If you would have done your job years ago, your kids wouldn't still be spouting out mythological gobbledy-gook at the age of 35. My dad sat me down at the tender age of four and laid it all out for me. He said, 'Boy, you're four and you can't go on believing in fairy tales all your life. There is no Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or any money for your vaccinations.' From that day forward I only believed in two things, myself and my Dad."

You can guess that instead of facing their ignorance, everyone at the table got up and left the restaurant. You may also guess that I returned to my special dinner. Finally, I could eat my steak without ignorance surrounding me. But my pleasure was short-lived. A couple came in and sat down at the now-vacant table next to me. The man started the conversation:

"This remake of Rear Window was wonderful. The director also starred in the movie, but the unbelievable thing is he's that actor that can't walk and has to breathe through a machine and can only move around in a wheelchair. Do you know who I'm talking about?"

The woman answered "Oh, yeah Christopher Reeve. He's great."

I never got to finish my meal.

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