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
"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.
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
The woman answered "Oh, yeah Christopher Reeve. He's great."
I never got to finish my meal.
Back to the Archive