One day back in middle school, a seventh grader hit me with an unexpected question. He asked if I knew why the word ‘gullible’ was not in the dictionary. In those days I was an innocent, trusting soul. The total randomness of his query should have been a red flag, but I sensed no foul play at all. Instead, with complete confidence in Webster’s Third New International, I marched over to the shelf to prove my classmate wrong. My triumph in finding ‘gullible’ on page 1,012 was short-lived, though, as the little prankster cackled and announced to the whole class that I was a doofus.
Years of bitter experience have made me a sadder and wiser man. I no longer open small jars that say “mixed nuts.” I do not buy extended warranties. I delete emails that offer to put money directly into my bank account. It has been a very long time since I have pulled anyone’s finger. Yes, I once sat through a three-hour pyramid sales pitch just out of politeness. The earnest friends who had invited me — bless their hearts — had converted their entire household to all-natural Melaleuca cleaning products, vitamins, and so forth, convinced that this stuff was the perfect cleanser for body and home. It also did a fine job, so I noticed, of cleaning out the wallet.
I’ll admit that I’m not the most frugal man with a dollar, but it always amazes me what people can be talked into buying. Take the International Star Registry (ISR). For only $35, some guy in Illinois will name a star for you or for your sweetheart. Then he’ll mail you a certificate and celestial map, pinpointing the precise location in space where you blew $35.
If an ordinary, piddling star isn’t enough, the ISR will gladly let you name a supernova for $79.95. There is no price listed on the website for adopting a constellation, but if you happen to be dating a woman named Ursa Major, you could really impress her, provided she doesn’t keep up with astrology. I once asked about the fee for renting a comet and was politely told I needed to take out a loan.
Yes, it all shows that you care. But what if you truly don’t care? What about that vast, untapped market of people out there who are itching to name something after enemies, ex-boyfriends, tax auditors, sports referees and people who have not yet purchased a certain book you might have written? Fortunately, the San Francisco Zoo has stepped into the breach. According to Vice President of Development Tim Wu, for a modest donation the zoo’s entomologists will gladly name one of their bugs after your ex. So for $25, that girl who dumped you for a rugby player can be informed by postcard that a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is crawling around San Francisco with her name. If that isn’t sweet revenge, I don’t know what is.
Of course, it will not be long before someone sets up a website offering to scrub your bug history. For only $23, this cagey entrepreneur will break into the San Francisco Zoo at night and step on the roach bearing your name. At which point, of course, your ex will have to reorder. If all these businesses play their cards right, this sort of thing can go on forever, making everyone rich as bitter ex-couples continue to pump money into exterminating their romance.
Now that I think about it, I want in on this opportunity. So listen up, Harding. I have more than 600 neckties in my wardrobe. For a mere $5, I will gladly name one of them after anyone you like. There’s a wide variety to choose from. Want to brighten up grandma’s day? Name a vintage hand-painted cravat after her. Ready to propose? Send a card that says “Let’s Tie the Knot,” along with a photo of a 100 percent silk beauty named just for her. Time to say “it’s over”? One dollar will tack his name on some hideous polyester thing from the very back of the closet. Please send your $5 to Box 12248, and be sure to print the name of your intended carefully. Of course, if you want to purposefully misspell the name out of spite, please send an extra 25 cents for mishandling charges. To browse the selection, visit @ClaxTies on Twitter.