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Crowded on the shelf and partially hidden by other books, the bright yellow spine of the stupidest book ever glared out to me, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Professional Wrestling. I pushed the Grishams and Pattersons out of the way to get at it, as if I was a miner of nonsense and this was my mother lode.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Professional Wrestling surprised me with its heft. The weight of it dragged my buoyant optimism beneath the waves. I flipped to the back — page 352. Three hundred and fifty-two icy daggers in my eyes. Three hundred and fifty-two baying hounds in the murky night. Three hundred and fifty-two diagnoses of cancer snapped into a clipboard and handed over for signing.

“You know what I told him...he could take his speakers out of my car if he...BOOKS ARE $4.99 EACH OR FIVE FOR $20,” the toothless harridan in the inadequate tube top behind the counter shrieked at me.

I turned the book over, originally $19.99. Published in 2003. I made seven dollars an hour in 2003. Were I so dull and thick — a complete idiot — I would’ve worked the better part of three hours to earn enough to buy this. Considering taxes, gas, and lunch, this book represented half a day’s work, maybe more.

And someone had. The corners of the pages swelled the covers, thumb-worn and dog-eared. Inside, a line concerning Stone Cold Steve Austin’s title defense had been underlined in black ballpoint ink almost to the point of tearing through the paper, and on each side of the sentence danced exclamation points, “!!!!!!!!!”

I tugged at a tuft of beard beneath my lip. I am not a complete idiot. I’m not an astrophysicist, but I’m not a drooling moron. Average, at least; gifted on my finer days. Is there a guide to pro wrestling for me? Would anyone except a complete idiot need a guide of this sort? What could it tell us? What truths lay hidden in its pages? Suffering of a nation. Sacrifices to Moloch. Vertigo briefly spun my head.

“You want the book or not, honey?”

I thought to buy the book and burn it in a barbecue. For a brief second the black-and-white newsreel footage from World War II of a book pyre played in my mind and seemed almost appealing. “No,” I said, and replaced it in its hole on the shelf, covering it again with legal thrillers and serial-killer novels.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

The Statistics Issue! (All stats are the latest available or latest I could find. If you think they’re wrong, write your complaint down, wad it up, and chew on it. This is a humor article.)

Thursday, April 3
Homicide: Life on the Street
WGN 12:00 p.m.

Between 1998 and 2000, Americans committed 12,658 murders. That’s 0.042802 murders per 1000 people, or roughly 0.0 per 1000 people. In contrast, there were 679,862 amateur radio operators. Your neighbor is more likely to be tapping out Morse code to Tuvalu than he is hacking people to pieces and freezing them.

The Office
NBC 9:00 p.m.

Among 1000 people who held a job, there were 163 days of missed work. That means, on average, Americans took 0.163 days off from work in the year 2000. Also reported that year, 39 percent of people said they were “very happy.” Eight percent said they were “very unhappy.” So there was one grumbler, four beaming dummies, and the rest of us just trudged in every day, checked our email, and counted the minutes until we could get a beer. That seems about right.

Friday, April 4
Price is Right Million Dollar Spectacular
CBS 9:00 p.m.

There are 8.9 million people in the U.S. who are considered millionaires. Conversely, 18 percent of U.S. children live below the poverty level. You dirty buggers, with your monocles and canes. Someday those poor kids and me are going to knock your door down and take your bread, mayo, and tuna. Poor kids love tuna sandwiches.

Saturday, April 5
Get Ripped in 90 Days
USA 7:00 a.m.

In 2002, Americans spent 24 billion dollars on fitness clubs. In 2004, the obesity rate had risen to 32 percent. Apparently, those two years were spent on a couch feeling guilty about your gym fees. On your walk to the gym to cancel your membership, you got tired at the corner market, bought Cheetos, and turned around, vowing to give it another shot tomorrow.

Sex and the City
CW 8:00 p.m.

A 1999 poll showed that 8 percent of American women thought that women had equal rights to men. That same poll asked women if they “should have equal rights.” Sixty-two percent said, yes, women should have equal rights. So, out of 100 of you, 8 think you already have equal rights, 62 think you “should,” and 38 of you think you “shouldn’t.” Only way I can see to settle this fairly is a lingerie wrestling match! Bonus points for high heels and eyebrow waggling!

Sunday, April 6
Star Trek
XDTV 7:00 p.m.

There were 14.2 births per 1000 people last year. There were 8.62 deaths. According to my California public school arithmetic, we have nine years to colonize other planets. And when we get out there, none of this “constitution this” and “constitution that” crap. If you can get the Evel Knievel helmet off my head and pry the shotgun from my hand, you’re president. Until then, get back in line and shut up.

Monday, April 7
The Big Bang Theory
CBS 8:30 p.m.

In 2003, more than 40,000 doctorate degrees were given in all fields of study, which means the rest of us were working while you and your snooty friends sat around contemplating the patches on your elbows.

Tuesday, April 8
Hell’s Kitchen
FOX 9:00 p.m.

There were 744 deaths from food obstruction in the U.S. There were 6 deaths from hot drinks, oils, or fats. The tomatoes and cooking spray on my counter seem almost ominous in light of those facts. Are they conspiring against me? Don’t think I don’t hear you, coffee maker. Whispering. Always whispering.

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