Above It All 

Am I the cream of my own crop?

Several weeks ago, a contributor to the on-line comment feature of BW called me an elitist. An elitist, can you believe it? Moi? Bollocks, I protested, this yahoo wouldn't know an elitist from an Electrolux! It bothered me for maybe two minutes, until I realized 1) I wasn't entirely clear on what an elitist is, and 2) I'm pretty sure I've been called worse, anyway. So screw 'im!, I thought, and forgot about it.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I was arguing with a guy I argue with a lot during my weekly apres-bowling imbibement, and he said he couldn't stand Democrats because they were all elitists. So I says to him, Well I'm a Democrat and you don't think I'm an elitist, do you? And keep in mind, this conversation was taking place as the two of us hunched over a Budweiser spill in a bowling alley bar ... a circumstance which, in itself, should have eliminated any doubt.

He admitted he didn't think I was, or if I was, I was doing a good job of hiding it. But suddenly, I wasn't so sure. Could I be an elitist and not know it? So on the basis of those two incidents, plus the fact that I have long heard everything from Northeasterners to Hollywood-types accused of being elitists, I decided I should determine 1) what they are, and 2) if I am one. It may matter little to you, dear reader, but from my perspective, it's the sort of thing a fellow ought to know about himself, if true. Consider: If you had repressed Unitarian proclivities or were maybe one-eighth Cherokee ... wouldn't you want to know?

Naturally, I turned to the Internet to see if there were any tests or surveys I could take to measure my level of elitism. I found all sorts of methods that could tell me if I'm a redneck, but unfortunately, nothing about how to tell if I'm an elitist. Evidently, elitists feel that having to answer questions about themsleves is beneath them.

Alas, I was left with no choice but to put together my own test, a sampling of which is reproduced below, along with my answers. (In its entirety, the test is over 200 questions long—75 of which are essay questions—and would require a three-day weekend to complete. The way I figure it, whatever else elitists may be, they are thorough.) Feel free to take it yourself. Who knows? You, too, could be an elitist and not know it. (And, if at the present moment, you feel a vague suspicion that you're wasting your valuable time reading this column, I would say you have reason to be concerned.)

• Have you ever shaved, wanted to shave, or even briefly considered shaving, your head? (I checked NO.)

• How many hours a week do you spend watching professional wrestling? (NONE was my answer.)

• Who would you say is the more engaging television personality: Bill Moyers or Dog the Bounty Hunter? (MOYERS.)

• Which music would you rather listen to over the convenience store intercom speaker as you pump your own gas: A) country western, or B) seagulls fighting over discarded hotdog bun scraps in the parking lot? (I checked "B," even though, technically, seagulls don't qualify as music.)

• If you were given $40,000 to spend as you wish, would you spend it on A) a Dodge Ram truck, or B) a graduate degree in English Literature? (I checked "B," but seriously considered writing in "VOLVO.")

• On any matter or issue whatsoever, whose opinion would you put more stock in, A) a roundly educated individual who has some knowledge in, and curiosity about fields of study other than the one chosen as his profession, or B) a person who spent his high school years tripping nerds in the halls and lighting farts to impress girls, and went downhill from there, educationally? (I checked "A," even though I admit "B" would likely be a better choice for lead-off guy on a bowling team.)

• If you were trapped in the window seat of a family restaurant booth and could not escape hearing what your dining companion had to say, would you rather that companion be A) an evangelical who is convinced that if he spends enough time explaining the meaning of several dozen passages in the Bible, you too will be born again, or B) a theoretical physicist who is determined you leave the restaurant knowing everything there is to know about string theory? (My answer: NONE OF THE ABOVE, since I wouldn't be caught dead in a family restaurant in the first place.)

• When hosting a Westminister Dog Show viewing soiree, are you more inclined to serve A) a platter of chilled brie and a sassy California cabernet sauvignon, or B) a twelver of Keystone and a tub of pork rinds? (I checked NEITHER—pronounced "ny-ther," not "nee-ther"—as how the Westminister is such a personal, private experience for me, I would never consider watching it in the company of others.)

• When you die, do you plan on having your earthly remains A) cremated and your ashes spread over Red Fish Lake, or B) stuffed and put on display in a Yellow Pine saloon? (As tempted as I was to check "A," I went with "B," figuring if there were ever a corpse that deserved to be re-animated, it would be mine.)

I have sent the test off to a prestigious Eastern university for tabulation and analysis. (I could have sent them to Boise State, I suppose, but if it were your test, wouldn't you prefer to have an Ivy League stamp on the results?) Yet even without the final academic evaluation, I detected a trend developing in both my questions and my answers, and I am ready to concede that, even though I still can't precisely define what elitism is, I have more than my fair share of it. Don't ask me where it came from or how to reconcile it with my preference for bib overalls and canned tamales, but I am resolved to accept it without reservation or shame.

In fact, evidence of my elitist tendencies has become so convincing that I'm exploring ways to nurture them and carry the elitist message to people who have absolutely nothing to feel elite about. As we speak, I am preparing a book—possibly even a lecture series—on how confused individuals might embrace their inner elitist. I am calling the project "You Might Be An Elitist If ..." and my intention is to spend the rest of my life filling in the implicit blank at the end of that title. Furthermore, I intend to do it with the utmost in refinement, sagacity and elegant repartee. In less adept hands, as you can imagine, such an endeavor could become little more than a common joke.

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