On the average
Actually, I don't think I have a lot of ego. My wife says I could get by on less, but I tell her inflation is still with us. She doesn't say it right out; she just says my ego would look better on a larger person.
Maybe I had a slight case of ego the time a lady told me I reminded her of someone in films. She couldn't remember his name. I suggested Clark Gable. But it turned out she was thinking of one of the seven dwarfs in ''Snow White.''
All my ego trips end up like that. Down in the Dumpy. Or is it Grumpy. I have been so low lately that Snow White could hire me as the eighth dwarf.
The latest thing that caused me to let off esteem was trying on a jacket from the ''regular'' rack in a men's store and having it fit perfectly. If one can go in and buy sport jackets off the regular rack his ego is hanging by a wire coat hanger to begin with. Usually you can identify me as the one with the M inside his shirt collar, which stands for ''medium.'' It is one degree worse than ''lukewarm.'' Salesmen have to take only one look at me and anything they lift off the rack fits.
But on that particular day in the men's store, there was something extra in the salesman's condescension as he smoothed and patted the collar of a multicolored item from either South Korea or Sri Lanka, with the smug assurance that I was the kind of person that this monstrosity was going to fit. Then, in addition, in front of my wife, my wife's woman friend, and a cute blonde who was sorting out things, the salesman simpered, ''You are fortunate in being very average.''
Average sounds all right when you are talking about rainfall, but on people it is only drizzle. I just had to stand there, feeling the M inside my collar light up.
He could have said, ''We'll have to alter the seams because of your well-developed chest.'' Or, ''We could alter the sleeves. Your muscular shoulders need more room.'' But no, he kept mincing around like a C- on an old report card. What was he afraid of? That I would develop an alter ego?
Then there was a tennis lesson. On the first whack I hit the ball over the net, which, as I understand it, is exactly what one is supposed to do. When I pointed out this bit of remarkable skill to the pro he only said, ''The beginners' average is one out of three.'' So I missed the next two.
Today, however, that is all behind me. My passport out of Averageville was an oversize, official-looking envelope from Cambridge, England, bearing big, blue words: Priority mail - Urgent.
It was from no less an institution than the International Who's Who of Intellectuals. They wanted to include me in Volume VI of the International Who's Who of Intellectuals book. And not just my name. My autobiography on a whole half page. My M-around-the-collar disappeared like magic.
All that was required of me was to accept the Luxury Edition, embossed in gold, with my name on it (available only to entrants) for $166.50. (Marked down from $185.00 if I sent the check before the ink was dry.)
I could see that acquiring the rank of a bona fide intellectual was not cheap , but maybe that is the way things are done.
The letter also offered a proper certification. By accepting the invitation I would be entitled to a Certificate of Inclusion, free of charge, hand lettered on parchment by a prominent calligrapher, with an official seal, and which would be suitable for hanging on the wall.
The handy thing about this was that it would certify me as an intellectual to visitors immediately. I wouldn't have to persuade everybody to go look me up in Volume VI.
But the best thing of all was that there was no mention of an IQ test. Not that I was worried about flunking, but, just on the outside chance, it would be embarrassing to ask for the $166.50 back on the basis of a faulty product.
I took an IQ test once somewhere in school. I gave a fellow a Hershey bar to look up the score, which was a chocolate-smeared 135. Since that is below the genius level I was glad I didn't get him the large bar with almonds.
Actually a fellow in my class did have a genius score. He had read the entire works of Marcel Proust before he entered high school. Good heavens, at that time I thought Marcel Proust was a woman's hairdresser.
For several days now, this application has been sitting on my desk awaiting my decision. My checkbook stands at the ready. My ego has sprouted again like a forgotten onion. But I'm not sure I can go through with it.
One thing makes me uneasy. There is a form attached which asks me to recommend any of my friends who might qualify as undiscovered intellectuals, and presumably, who also have $166.50 in ready cash.
As I look over my list, I'm not sure I have any friends who fit both requirements.
The biggest deterrent of all, however, is something quite different. Suppose someone comes out with a Who's Who of Handsome People, and then someone comes out with a Who's Who of Honest People. There might also be a Who's Who of the Brave, or the Talented, or the Sweet and Lovable. Suppose they all cost $166.50 to be included. I could well be invited to join each one.
I might go broke.