MAD DOG: Blowing Away the Smokescreens

A lot of things just aren't what they seem to be. Take global warming, for example. What at first glance is a very serious subject -- well, for those who don't like the idea of bathing in SPF 372 every morning before going out into the sun -- now turns out to be a laughing matter.This is because of catalytic converters. You remember them, they're the empty metal thingies on your car engine which allow the mechanic to nod his head, inform you that you failed the smog test, and call his wife to tell her to extend their vacation in Fiji by another week.Years ago when the carmakers in Detroit (municipal motto: "We used to be a city too!") first started installing these on cars everyone rejoiced because finally there was a way to break down the nitrogen-oxygen compounds that spewed out of car exhaust before it combined with hydrocarbons and was cooked by sunlight to become secret sauce for Big Macs. Just kidding. Actually what that does is create smog.You know smog. That's the stuff that obliterates the Hollywood sign during the summer, makes the Grand Canyon appear not to have another side, and makes pilots think Mexico City has vanished like some bad episode of the X-Files. Or maybe that's a good episode.Either way, now it turns out that the same catalytic converters which scientists thought were helping eliminate smog are actually generating nitrous oxide, a gas which warms the atmosphere at an amazing rate, adding to -- you guessed it -- global warming.Of course you know nitrous oxide better as laughing gas, the anesthetic the dentist gives you so you won't feel anything when he tacks all those zeros on the end of your bill. But what these scientists -- who still think calling each other a fungi is a hilarious joke -- are neglecting to take into account is the fact that if the atmosphere is getting pumped full of nitrous oxide, which is causing the planet to warm up, there's going to be a day when we'll not only have to walk around stark naked just to keep cool but will be laughing ourselves silly all the while. So where, exactly, is the problem?There's been a streak of other things recently that aren't what they seem to be. In Indiana (state motto: "Even we can't find ourselves on a map.") Representative Dan Burton found himself running against a Democrat named Bobby Kern who isn't only a politician, he's a convicted felon and occasional female impersonator. Really. Of course the only thing that separates him from most politicians is that he's been convicted. Well, that and he can play the part of his own intern in a pinch.Then we have Viagra, the wonder drug that millions of men are finding it hard to beat, which was supposed to help people's sex lives by curing impotence. Instead it turns out it's a marriage wrecker. Well, at least according to Roberta Bernardo, who was the first on her block to file a lawsuit claiming that it did such a good job on her 70-year-old husband that he left her for greener pastures.Apparently Bernardo seems to think Viagra is an aphrodisiac, which we all know is ridiculous. Good & Plenty, now there's an aphrodisiac. Before you laugh yourself to death -- which is probably the result of an incorrectly adjusted catalytic converter shooting too much nitrous oxide into your car -- let me point out that a study by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation (corporate motto: "Our business is nothing to sniff at.") discovered that women who smelled Good & Plenty experienced a 13 percent increase in blood flow to their sex organs. If that's true then those 22-pound boxes of Good & Plenty they sell in the movie theater may do more for your sex life than all the Viagra in the world.But Good & Plenty wasn't the only erotic odor they uncovered. It turns out that baby powder, lavender, and pumpkin pie all have a similar effect on women. On the other hand, the smell of cherries, men's colognes, and charcoal grilled meat all reduced female sexual arousal. There goes sex after the cookout Sunday.It's also turning out that company dress codes may not be such a good thing. Even though many companies have instituted casual Fridays as a way to let workers dress down and relax, some people are taking advantage of it, and as your third grade teacher used to tell you, the whole class may suffer. Not long ago a mechanic who worked for Northwest Airlines was fired because he dressed a little too casually for work -- he wore a clown outfit. Vince Bazzachini, the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1833 (union motto: "We're out there so astronauts can be out there") defended the mechanics fashion statement saying it's not uncommon for union members to dress outlandishly to show their frustration with management. Maybe they're just a little ahead of their time. Give it a few more years and the nitrous oxide levels in the atmosphere will be high enough that even the most staid corporate manager will laugh his ass off at this kind of protest.And finally there's the question of medical bills, which aren't what they seem at all. To a doctor they seem reasonable. To us, they can seem rather high. To a medical insurance company they seem like a reason to raise our rates every year. That's why it was good to hear that Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin (corporate motto: "We'll give you something to be blue about.") took a psychiatrist to court over an invoice he submitted for one of his patients claiming that because she had 120 separate personalities it was proper for him to bill the insurer for group therapy. After all, he was counseling more than one personality at a time.Someone better go check his catalytic converter. Quickly.


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