Dave Barry

Dave Barry teaches his grandson life’s lessons —beginning with the ketchup

Excerpt from Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster) by Dave Barry, Putnam


Dear Dylan Maxwell Barry:

My goal, in writing this letter, is to pass along to you the important knowledge I have accumulated in my 67 years on this Earth. Here’s the main thing I have learned:

You do not need to refrigerate ketchup or mustard.

Many people believe that if left unrefrigerated, ketchup and mustard will go bad. But one thing you must learn is that just because “many people” believe something, that does not make them right. Many people believe in astrology. Many people believe that their cats actually like them. Many people believe that the New York Yankees are not the agents of Satan. Many people believe that “light beer” is a form of beer. Many people voluntarily purchase recordings by Barry Manilow.

Am I saying that all of these people are stupid? Of course not. Some of them are insane. But my point, Dylan, is that someday, when you start going to restaurants, you will notice that: (1) the ketchup and mustard are kept sitting out all day in a room that is, by definition, room temperature; and (2) the customers are not keeling over and dying from condiment-transmitted diseases. Instead, they are enjoying room temperature ketchup and mustard on their food. Meanwhile, in households all over America, millions of people routinely ruin perfectly good hamburgers and hot dogs by putting cold ketchup and mustard on them.

Don’t be one of those people, Dylan. Say no to cold ketchup.

Also: Be nice to people; don’t be rude. This seems like an obvious concept, right? But some people have trouble grasping it. Some people are nice only to people they want to impress, or to people they think can help them. But when they’re dealing with somebody they consider to be not useful, or unimportant, especially if that person pretty much has to take the abuse — an underling, a salesclerk, a waiter, a flight attendant — these people feel free to be rude. These people are what we call “jerks.”

Don’t be a jerk, Dylan. Be nice to everybody. If somebody turns out to be a jerk, you can stop being nice to that person. But always start with nice. Say “please” and “thank you.” Share. Take turns. Don’t bully, and don’t hit people, unless they are bullying you, in which case go ahead and belt them.

Never butt in line.

Do not be one of those people who are constantly standing up and blocking the view of the people behind them at concerts and sporting events. It’s OK to stand up when everybody else is standing up; crowds are pretty good at figuring out, as a group, when to do this. But there always seem to be some people — and they always seem to be seated in front of you — who believe they are entitled to stand up any old time they feel like it, which is a lot, because they are REAL FANS, by which I mean drunk. If you ask them to sit down, they will either ignore you, or tell you that if you were a REAL FAN, like them, you would be standing, too.

As a result, the people behind them have no choice but to crush their skulls with a ball-peen hammer.

No, Dylan, that would be wrong, by which I mean technically illegal. The people behind them have no choice but to stand up — thereby blocking the view of the people behind them — or spend the concert or sporting event staring at the idiots’ butts.

Be loyal to your friends. Popularity is way overrated; friendship is not.

Be considerate. Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your trash for other people to deal with. Don’t force other people to listen to your phone conversations or your music. Signal your turns. If you’re in the left lane, and people keep passing you on the right, get out of the left lane. If you use the toilet, flush the toilet. How hard is that, right? Flush the damn toilet.

Don’t be a know-it-all. Remember that being offended is not the same thing as being right.

Don’t brag.

Don’t whine.

Floss your teeth. (Once you get teeth, I mean.)

You do not need the extended warranty.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you want to impress a woman, do not buy her a gift that has a plug.

Finally, always remember that there is a fine line between being trendy and being a douche.

So that’s it, Dylan. That’s my wisdom. To be honest, it might not all be correct. The only thing I’m 100 percent sure of is the part about the ketchup and mustard.


Grandpa Dave

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