Feb 12 • 7M

Now, Kids...

You take turns.

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Megan Mullally of Los Angeles, California asks:

How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Okay. Um, thank you, my bride of many years, for this question. I’m not sure whether to take it at face value? If you would let me back in the house, we could just talk about it face-to-face, but I guess if posting a question on my Substack like this is as far as you’re comfortable going right now, then I will do my best. I’m just glad we’re dialoguing again.

Maybe you’re asking this question in a larger, sort of universal consciousness way? Like, when we really think about it, everybody living on planet Earth could be perceived as siblings of a sort, given our common ancestry and shared DNA. Is that what you mean? “We’re all brothers and sisters, suckling at the bountiful teats of our Earth Mother”? I ask that sincerely, but I now feel like it might make you mad, if you were to perceive it as sarcastic. I can assure you that it’s no joke, because this is something I think about a lot. We are all brothers and sisters, but we’re doing a pretty lousy job of behaving like it. Sometimes we behave selflessly, like well-reared siblings, but sometimes our actions are pointedly selfish and deserve to be disciplined by some sort of parental or authority figure.

On my way to work this morning, I drove up the freeway on-ramp, which is two lanes wide. Both lanes come to a stop at a solid white line, where each side has its own traffic light. When traffic is heavy, as it was this morning during rush hour, the lights allow one car to proceed at a time, by switching briefly from red to green and back to red again. This action alternates lanes, left green, then right green, then left green, and so forth, encouraging the two streams of cars to civilly meld into one as we merge onto the freeway.

As I came to my stop in the left lane today, the car next to me on the right just casually didn’t stop. He cruised straight through the red light, accelerating slightly as he approached the traffic. Our lights were both still red and I was about to announce my loud disapproval of this malfeasance when my reprimand was suddenly cut off by a shocked gasp out of my squeezebox. Because the next driver also chose to ignore the red light, goosing her accelerator so that she zipped up to the freeway as well.

Reader, I’ll tell you what. That pissed me off pretty good. Maybe because I grew up in a family where we were taught to take turns so that everybody gets as close as we can to a fair shot. We learned to share our popcorn and our chores and our beer (the beer came a bit later). Mom and Dad taught us to look out for each other, because even though we kids didn’t always see eye to eye, we were a family. That meant that if we could remember to love each other, then we’d end up stronger as a whole, and the rewards would be exponentially improved when all was said and done.

Which I thought was bullshit, sometimes. Since puberty, I have always been the largest of the Offerman kids, so it only stands to reason, if we’re dealing squarely, that I should get a fifth-to-a-quarter of my siblings’ beer. It would be impolite to list our personal bodily details here in public, but I mean, I’m just bigger than them. Do the goddamn math. But, no. Our parents chose to ignore my freedoms. They are usually good people, but this time they decided to just take a mighty leak on my Constitutional right to consume my justly apportioned share of the family beer.

But, whatever, the point is that we learned to get along with each other, and that the whole of our life’s rich pageant in Minooka, Illinois would come off with the most success, by far, if we could take turns.

I am flawed in many ways, some of which are likely apparent to you, and others which I keep hidden away. You may have guessed from the above that I have too strong a thirst for beer, for example, but I would bristle at that being counted as a flaw. I like beer! Is that such a crime? Ok, maybe if I’m getting that upset about it, it’s something worth examining. Before I run for public office, anyway.

My point is that when I saw those drivers callously refusing to wait their turns, I felt taken aback and ashamed, almost as though they were my literal brothers and sisters. For whatever reason, they didn’t get the training about how we all benefit more by looking out for each other than we do by looking out for number one.

Or did you just literally mean how many actual brothers and sisters? I have one brother and two sisters, and they make me feel very lucky to have them. They would love to meet you sometime. Also, has any mail come for me?

I love you,

Now, folks, thanks for bearing with me here so far. If you want to offer up your questions in the comments, I can begin to cull them and shuck their kernels what for to please the donkey. Pretty soon only the paid subscribers will get to ask questions and enjoy the medium pleasure of listening to the slow-talking narrator. The rest of you will have to read the text with your eyeballs for free. Thanks again for having me.

(Wally Shawn in The Princess Bride voice) Donkey Thoughts with Nick Offerman is a reader-supported publication.