I learned a new word while I was living in California. Actually, I learned many things that you don’t typically learn while growing up in the Bible Belt but in this particular case, I’m referring to the word “putz”. It was used in its verb form to describe some work I was doing which I had previously been thinking of as “high level analysis”. We’ll just ignore the implicit condemnation of my efforts and take off on another stream of consciousness; that being the word itself.

According to the dictionary, it is slang for a fool. There is also a “vulgar slang” definition which we won’t go into here. The verb form indicates “To behave in an idle manner; putter.” hence the evaluation of my analysis efforts.

I had never heard that word before. I have heard it since in movies, usually applied in its “vulgar slang” form. OK, so be it. That’s why I found it so amusing to see a big truck on the freeway the other day with the manufacture’s name on it in huge letters: “Putzmeister.” Ah! The master of behaving in an idle manner! But no, it was a truck made to pump concrete from here to there.

That’s when it hit me: while I was laughing at the name, the truck was off to make some serious money by pumping mud from point A to point B. Admittedly, concrete is a very special form of mud with some desirable properties but at its basic level, it’s just mud. The truck accomplishes a trivial task that one normally associates with illegal aliens with shovels. Somebody had taken a task that most of us prefer not to think about and had turned it into a moneymaker. Not only that, but had done so back in 1958. Yes! I looked it up on their web site. I had imagined some poor kid back in Germany with the name of Putzmeister that had been cruelly chided about his name as a young teen by his classmates and who had become fabulously wealthy as a way of getting even. I had even imagined the medieval origins of the name in which the village bum was eventually given a name in accordance with his social position. Alas, the word refers to the company’s first machine: the “Master Plasterer”. Still, one has to think of the implications.

While we were in college studying physics, we would laugh – laugh – at the engineers and business majors who were studying things like concrete and the selling of concrete. While we were thinking deep thoughts about the origins of the universe and practicing our snotty intellectual attitudes, they were preparing to sell us all concrete when we grew up and bought our first homes (and small ones at that considering what physicists were making both then and now). Well, who’s laughing now? What putzes we were!

The biggest home I was ever in (in California) was owned by a man whose family operated a gravel pit. Actually, it was a “construction materials supplier” but, basically, he sold rocks and dirt. Now, when I dig a hole in my back yard and there is a bunch of rocks and dirt left over, I have a problem. Where to put it? To me, it’s worse than worthless. That man, however will see an opportunity and charge me money to come haul it away and then turn around and charge somebody else who happens to want it. All he has to do is come with a truck and move it around. That, and classify it according to whether it’s “loamy sand, sandy loam, clay, gravel, or whatever.

And I thought I was smart!

Around here, the wealthiest guy (out of all the Dads in my former Cub Scout pack) is the guy who owns his own business. You guessed it: he sells “construction materials.” A sophisticated “high-tech” blend of minerals used for surfacing the walls of new commercial construction. In other words: more mud. It seems I was wrong about the meaning of the word Putzmeister; it isn’t “Master Putz”, apparently it means “Master OF Putzes”.

So, the education, the Ph.D., the years of deep thoughts; is it all a big cosmic joke? I think so; look at the richest man in the world – Bill Gates. He has created several versions of Windows. There is WindowsCE, WindowsME, and WindowsNT. Put them together and what do you get? Windows CEMENT!

Look at the creator of the universe. What did he do? He created the heavens and the earth which is, of course, mostly rocks and dirt.

And thus, we have a situation in which the wealthiest people in the world are those who sell us all rocks, dirt, and/or mud. Just when you think that you’ve seen the most outlandish idea in the world, something comes along to challenge that. I saw candy at Walgreen’s the other day called “Worms and Dirt”. It’s basically gummy worms submerged in crunched-up Oreos. Simple yet disgusting. The label featured a cartoon parent reacting in horror to his cartoon child eating a worm. Disgusting? Yes! And somebody is now relaxing in a very large house as a result of it. I also saw something called a “Scumball” which was gum that first produces a black foam in a kids mouth, dying his teeth and tongue a disgusting black.

And so, the seeds of an idea were born. I can out-disgust that idea. I came up with the idea of some candy called “The Catbox”. It is a small plastic dish shaped and colored like a cat’s litter box filled with rice crispies into which is submerged a few tootsie rolls. It would have a little scoop to fish for the tootsie rolls. I’ll bet I could retire! (And think all the deep thoughts I wanted to after laughing at my old physicist buddies who are still in their offices in the basements of science buildings all over the world.)

The idea has all it needs: something dirty and a shovel. Enough “high level analysis”. Look back to the beginning paragraph to discover another word for that! UPDATE:  It’s been done.  I saw something very similar on the internet.  *sigh*

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