29 July 2011

How Many Punches?

As the saying goes, roughly, "'Tis better to give than to receive."

I've heard that this is true of generosity - unconfirmed - but I can confirm that it's true of punches. No one likes getting punches and everyone loves to punch something.

There are times, however, that turn this convention on its head.

Rob Cockerham, of Cockeyed.com, has devised a sort of misery index. Not this Misery Index or even this Misery Index. He describes it as a "list of bad things that can happen to you" and has assigned a unit - the dolor - to these events. This is good, it's a good list and I feel like it's arranged in a reasonable order.

The problem is, the dolor seems to be defined relative to the events. I can't see it. I can't define it using known physical constants. I can't design a dolor gauge. If I'm building a ruler that's a meter long I would simply cut it to the length that a beam of light would travel in 1/299,792,458 of a second.

With this in mind, I set propose my own standard for a misery index. I would start out with a known entity. Something that can be identified, defined, put in a bell jar and stored in the basement of a university in Paris.

I propose the Punch.

You may have thought, "I'd rather be punched in the head than go visit the in-laws." If you're on good terms with your in-laws then this thought may not have crossed your mind. I believe that this line of thinking can be extrapolated to other common events.

Let's say, for example, that you hate going to the dentist. Maybe you'd rather be punched? That's too vague. You may not want a punch in the mouth. That might result in DENTAL SURGERY (no link here). A punch in the stomach doesn't sound that bad - if you really hate the dentist you'd need more physical pain in exchange for your mental suffering. Maybe three punches in the stomach? That sounds very reasonable indeed. Accordingly, we can peg a trip to the dentist at a three-hit combo to the gut.

For the record I love the dentist. Were it not for all of the Cenobite hooks gouging my gumline I believe I could nap. It beats the hell out of an ice skate

Now that we've warmed up let's try a more complicated scenario. You have a one hour meeting to go to but you're not on the agenda, and you don't really understand why you're there in the first place. That seems to me like a clear cut case for a punch to the head. One. Suppose instead that your meeting is two hours, conducted remotely but still requires you to leave the comfort and safety of your cubicle so you can go sit in a room and listen to people yell at a speakerphone. Even though it's just one hour longer, I would hate this scenario so much that I'd be willing to get punched in the head three times. The Punch does not scale arithmetically.

Imagining some sort of hellish 9 hour meeting using this same conversion factor I get 13.5 (9 times 1.5) punches to the head. As in, "I'd rather be punched in the head 13.5 times than go to that damn meeting." This is kind of like getting punched to death - and that still seems like a very reasonable compromise in this situation. One half of a punch to the head would be more like a shot in the ribs. To really grasp the fractional Punch, picture the difference between kilometers and decameters and then punch yourself for having such a solid grasp of the metric system.

Now we've defined the Punch we can safely build some tabular data.

Activity Punch(es) Location
Rush hour traffic (light) 2 Stomach
Rush hour traffic (heavy) 4 Stomach
Wedding Reception (Cash Bar) 4 Head
Wedding Reception (Cash Bar; speeches) 10 Body blows; Head; Uppercut to finish
IKEA (browsing; weeknight) 1 Gut, unexpected
IKEA (shopping; weekend) 4 Groin
Walmart, for any reason * *As many punches as it takes to render you unconscious

Armed with this information, you can now go about defining your daily misery in an easily understood, easily digested manner.

And if you're still having trouble wrapping your mind around the Punch, I'm sure a friend or loved one will help you start building your own personal scale.

Happy Punchings!

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