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I’m With Stupid – April 20, 2012

by Todd Hartley

Are you tired of hearing nothing but bad news? I know I am. It seems like every time I turn on the TV or surf the Internet or pick up a newspaper, all I hear or read about is government gridlock, partisan bickering in Washington, war, terrorism, murder, unemployment, obesity, etc., etc., etc. Thankfully, I’ve finally found some news that is not only good, it’s also completely practical.

A recent study from the University of Illinois published in the Journal of Consciousness and Cognition has shown that when men are given alcohol, “they can solve almost 40 percent more problems than their sober counterparts.” The study also showed that men can answer questions more quickly after downing a couple of pints of beer.

Obviously, this is tremendous news for all you imbibers out there. From now on, if someone tries to give you a hard time about your alleged drinking problem, you can just tell them that you’re not actually a drunk; you’re just someone who likes to exercise his brain muscle a few times a day. And if your wife or significant other gets mad at you for passing out on the couch again, you can just remind her that that’s what smart people do.

Now, to an extent, I think most men have always known this to be true. I know I, for one, always felt smarter when I was drinking. I felt fatter, sweatier and smellier, as well, but that’s not really the point. I wasn’t drinking to make myself more attractive. I was drinking to make the rest of you more attractive. I was also drinking because I knew that after a few cocktails, I could solve all the world’s problems.

And I did. I swear to you right now that at one point or another in my drinking career, I had the answers to everything. The problem was that when I woke up the next morning after passing out on the couch – or somewhere worse – I couldn’t remember all my great ideas. And do you know why I couldn’t remember those ideas? Because I was sober, and thus stupid again.

Truthfully, though, I suppose that, in the interest of full disclosure, the study should probably have come with a caveat addressing the fact that after doing enough drinking, a man will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. This is a quirk of heavy drinking I like to call the “bowling alley effect,” and if you’ve gone bowling and drinking, you’ll know what I mean.

When I start bowling, I’m not very good. I’ll usually bowl about an 86 for my first game. After a couple of beers, I’ll get up to around 120 for my second game. A few beers later, I can generally break the 150 mark for my third game. By the fourth game, however, my score usually plummets to about 16 after I start throwing balls down the wrong lanes. I imagine the intelligence benefits derived from booze probably function in a similar manner.

As heartening as this booze news is, though, I actually think it doesn’t give alcohol as much credit as it deserves. I would venture to say that the study should also have touched on the fact that drinking makes people more interesting. I know some of you will disagree with that sentiment, but face it: No one has ever told you an entertaining story that didn’t start with some variation of the words “We were so drunk and …”

As for the practical aspect of this revelation, well, I imagine you can see where I’m heading with this. Right now, based strictly on how dim our elected officials seem to be, I’m guessing that politicians aren’t allowed to drink while debating the issues. And where has this gotten us? Abso-friggin’-lutely nowhere.

The obvious solution to government gridlock, as far as I can see, is to ensure that the Capitol has a keg or two on tap at all times when Congress is in session. This would make our elected officials smarter, to be sure, and it might even help Republicans and Democrats bond a little and engender a new feeling of congeniality in Washington.

If this can get politicians to solve 40 percent more problems than they do now, that would be awesome. It would sure be an improvement over the zero problems they solve now. And if, somehow, drinking makes the two sides attack one another instead, at least it would make them entertaining.

Todd Hartley must have been really smart in college, because he can barely remember any of it.

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