The U-Bend #29: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

by Robbie Fischer

Pop quiz (multiple guess):

  1. Why is Robbie writing this week’s column for Andrew and Robert?
    1. Didn’t you know, Robbie and Robert are the same dude?
    2. Andrew and Robert were called away to Vegas to fill in for Penn and Teller, when Teller lost his voice.
    3. To stall while Andrew and Robert read Half-Blood Prince 11 times.
    4. Because Robbie thought a little hate mail would brighten the monotony of getting 54 messages a day saying, “You have to review the complete works of Fern McGillicuddy for the Book Trolley!”
  2. Why didn’t they ask YOU to write a column for them, too?
    1. Because, unlike Robbie, you don’t accept every writing assignment you are offered.
    2. Because they know Robbie isn’t as funny as they are, so they’ll still look good after it’s over with.
    3. Because you weren’t speaking to them after the time they put you-know-what in your shampoo bottle.
    4. Because Robbie is the only person they know who hasn’t put their e-mail address on his anti-spam “black list.”
  3. Why doesn’t he drop the quiz thing and get to the point of this week’s column?
    1. Because he’s still deciding what the point is going to be.
    2. What, are you still reading this?
    3. They pay you by the letter at MuggleNet.
    4. Look, don’t criticize. Column-sitting isn’t as easy as it looks. Every time I stop for a breather, the cat knocks something over in the other room, I keep finding banana peels under the chair cushions, the toilet overflows when I run water in the kitchen, and I don’t want to know WHAT that thing is on the corner of the desk! So just give me a minute, OK?

Whew! That was a toughie! All right, scholars, here are the correct answers to the quiz. Number 1: E. None of your business. Number 2: E. This is the 83rd column I’ve submitted to them; persistence pays off. Number 3: E. Holy cow! What is that THING behind you?

If you guessed all the answers correctly, help yourself to a free sundae at the Florean Fortescue stand in your neighborhood! Just tell them Andrew sent you, and have them put it on his tab.

And now, on to my actual topic! In the past several years, since I became a ravingHarry Potter fanatic, many people who used to be close friends of mine have asked why I am so single-mindedly fixated on a bunch of kiddie stories that aren’t even true! So, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, I have tested many of the seemingly unbelievable things that you read about in the Harry Potter series. I have found evidence that it might be true after all. So stick this in your aromatherapy brazier and burn it, Dr. Krishna! Hahahahaha!

Ahem. What I mean to say is, here’s the evidence, which I have painstakingly measured according to the most objective standards of scientific research. Before I continue, however, I must warn you not to try these experiments yourself. Only fully trained and equipped personnel, supervised by leading members of the psychiatric profession, should attempt these tests!

FIRST PROBLEM: “Gee whiz, Robbie. How can you stand all that rubbish about ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’? Nobody ever talks like that!”

Answer: Au contraire! And here’s the evidence! My brother is what you might call the “black sheep” of the family. Every time I visit home, or talk to my parents by phone, they spend nearly all the time yakking about his problems and misdeeds. One summer I finally told my parents, in the gentlest and most respectful way, that if they mentioned my brother’s name one more time I was going to cut my ears off and shove them down their throats. It worked! Except that they still talked about his problems and misdeeds as much as ever; only they were careful always to say “You-Know-Who” and sometimes even “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” This is a true story. So clearly, unmentionable people like Voldemort really exist…though I imagine that Voldemort manages his personal affairs somewhat better than my brother does.

SECOND PROBLEM: “You know there are no such things as witches, and crystal balls, and divination, and spellbooks, and magic potions, etc.”

Answer: Oh really? Have you ever heard of Paganism? This is an actual religion, or rather, a group of religions that includes Druidism and Wicca. My mother belonged to it for several years. Yes, my mother was a witch. And she had it all — crystals, wands, spellbooks, herbs. I saw them. She communed with spirits, she dreamed prophetic dreams, and she even put a nasty curse on somebody that WORKED. It was quite scary and frankly, I’m glad that she gave it up. I suppose a woman of a certain age begins to find broomstick riding rather uncomfortable.

Oh, great. Now I really am going to get hate mail. Let me make it quite clear that I am not promoting Paganism in any way, nor am I saying that the religion of Paganism is the same thing as the magical world JKR portrays in her books. Before you accuse me of such a thing, I advise you to read my editorials, such as “Harry Potter: Magic or Magick” etc. And you will see that you are accusing one of the least likely people inHarry Potter fandom to be a supporter of the Dark Arts! Which, by the way, takes care of the

THIRD PROBLEM: “There can’t possibly be such gits in the world as Barty Crouch Sr.!”

FOURTH PROBLEM: Who are you calling a git? Hmph!

FIFTH PROBLEM: “I found the way Harry Potter blew up his Aunt Marge, stormed disrespectfully out of the house, and ran away on the Knight Bus without suffering any repercussions to be very obnoxious, immature, and a terrible example for children!”

Answer: Well, I didn’t exactly blow up my stepfather that one Christmas at Mom’s house (this was after she stopped being a witch, and Christmas was back on again). But I visualized it, and it was very satisfactory. Then I did storm out of the house, throwing all my presents out into the snowy yard. No Knight Bus, though, but it doesn’t signify; I had a car and I got all the way home in spite of being so drowsy (I had to drive all through the night) that I was all over the road, just like Ernie Prang. Of course, I felt like a bloody idiot afterward, but it confirms that such things really can happen to hormonal teenagers…even at age 30.

SIXTH PROBLEM: “I don’t buy that claptrap about the Polyjuice Potion. Everybody is unique. You can’t become another person! Anyone who knew you would be able to tell the difference instantly!”

Answer: Really? Tell that to the waitress at the Rusty Hydrant tavern, which is two doors down from a slightly-less-seedy inn that I used to frequent. I had never had the least interest in going into the Rusty Hydrant, until one day I found myself short of cash and the ATM outside the Golden Gristle was out of order. I remembered seeing a sign outside the Rusty Hydrant that said “ATM Inside!” so I took a brief detour. As soon as I walked in, the waitress gave me a delighted smile of recognition and said, “Why, I haven’t seen you in AGES! Where have you been? Will you be drinking your usual?” That was eerie! It took me several minutes to convince the lady that I had never seen her, or the inside of the establishment, in my life. But I looked and sounded EXACTLY like some guy who used to come in there all the time. Looking back, I should have asked if the other guy often wore a moleskin overcoat…

SEVENTH PROBLEM: “There couldn’t possibly be such a STUPID bureaucracy as the Ministry of Magic!”

Answer: You have obviously never applied for vehicle tags in the state of Missouri. I have seen enough red tape in my day to fix the crack in the devil’s dashboard, but I have never seen anything as awe-inspiringly screwed up as the Missouri Department of Transportation. “MODoT,” as it is affectionately known, requires seven official (and unexpired) pieces of paper from you before they will issue your license plates, only they will only tell you about one of them each time you visit the office (after which you have to go out and get the latest piece of paper that they have told you about). After they make you run out to the car six times, send you on paper-pushing errands all over the county, give you contradictory and inaccurate instructions, and ask you whether you would prefer a tractor license which can only be driven within a 50-mile radius of your permanent address (even though your insurance card very clearly says FORD FIESTA), you finally understand why Missouri is the only place you have ever heard of where theft of license tags is a major law-enforcement problem. By that time it seems like a pretty good idea.

EIGHTH PROBLEM: “I work for MODoT and I know where you live.”

Answer: Avada Kedavra! Ha — made you duck!

NINTH PROBLEM: “You still haven’t proven that any of the MAGIC in the Harry Potterstories could really exist.”

Answer: All right, you’ve got me there. But I PROMISE you that when Andrew and Robert are released, their very first act will be to write a column that fixes you and your little red wagon, too. And since you had to be such a smartnik, you can forget about that free sundae!

TENTH PROBLEM: “How were we supposed to guess the correct answers to those questions at the beginning of the article?”

Answer: Are you nuts? All you had to do was scroll down! That’s it, I’m through with your questions. Andrew and Robert can have you! I’m going back to the Book Trolley, where the only thing they ever ask is, “When does the next Lemony Snicket book come out?” (A. October 1st. B.What’s the matter with you? HBP just came out! C. The author’s name is really Daniel Handler. D. Did you break your arm? Use your mouse and look it up on Amazon! E. All of the above.)

Finally, if you plan on sending hate mail to the author of this article, I didn’t write it. ANDREW FORGED MY NAME. Enjoy the HBP everybody!

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