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The Strait And Narrow

I was reading an article the other day, and I came across a sentence that read, “The economy of Bolivia is in dire straits.” Why is it though that the only straits we ever hear about are dire ones? Why don’t we ever hear about something being in good straits? For example, you never hear the following conversation:


JUAN: Hey Jose, have you heard from Pedro lately?

JOSE: Yeah. I spoke to him the other day.

JUAN: How are his straits?

JOSE: Oh Pedro’s straits are great! Do you remember when he tried to cross the border into the United States, and the INS agent kicked his fucking teeth in, tied him up, and sent him back to Tijuana in a cardboard box?

JUAN: Yeah.

JOSE: Well, this time he made it across, and he married a double-jointed model with a huge dick tooth.

JUAN: What’s a dick tooth?

JOSE: It’s a “sweet tooth” for dick. I thought of that term all by myself. Pretty clever, huh?

JUAN: Yeah, I like that. But wait. You’re making this up! Why would a girl like that marry a poor Mexican like Pedro?

JOSE: She wanted to piss off her father. Yeah, she’s this crazy anorexic. Pedro doesn’t mind though. Like I said, she’s a double-jointed model with a huge dick tooth.

JUAN: I can’t believe that! That lucky bastard!

JOSE: Wait! It gets better! Instead of pissing off her father, it had the exact opposite effect. Her father’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and Pedro charmed the hell out of him. He retired last spring, and appointed Pedro as the new CEO. He’s now making six-hundred dollars an hour!

JUAN: You’re shitting me!

JOSE: I shit you not! Ironically, his company is a textile manufacturing firm, and instead of hiring American workers, he set up factories here in Mexico so that he can pay his employees twenty cents an hour. Hey, more power to him. I would do the same thing.

JUAN: Wow! His straits are great!

JOSE: They certainly are!

JUAN: Do you think our straits will ever be that great?

JOSE:  Probably not.


You never hear conversations like that. You never hear them because, like I said earlier, the only kind of straits you ever hear about are dire ones. I’ll prove it. Stop reading this for a moment, and ask someone nearby about their straits. Say to them, “Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but I was just wondering how your straits are.” I guarantee you that they won’t know what you’re talking about. Then, if you were to clarify it by asking, “Well, for example, would you say that your straits are pretty dire?” they would probably say, “Wait. You mean that there’s such a thing as good straits? I didn’t know that! Wow! Anyway, my straits are…” Before they continue, say to them, “Thank you, that’s all I need to know,” and then walk away. If they persist in trying to tell you about how their straits are, say to them, “To be honest with you, I don’t really care about how your straits are. I’m doing an experiment, and I’m using you as my guinea pig. Now fuck off.”

But be careful who you say this to. If you say this to the wrong person, they might stab you, and then you would be in dire straits.


January 15, 2005


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