NOTE: I wrote a mediocre version of this in my weekly newspaper humor column in 1997. I’ve updated the mediocrity for 2023 because fuck that newspaper.
I was sick. Guh. Not just sick. The kind of sick where you say, “I’m sick. Guh.”
The cocktail of cough syrup, Benadryl and a muscle relaxer kept me drifting in and out of sleep … or feudal Japan … I couldn’t tell the two apart.
The television was on, but only to keep me from panicking that I was going def. It was that kind of sick where you could drain fluid from your ear canals with a horse syringe.
The only thing I could really hear were the obnoxiously louder-than-the-show television commercials.
“Protect your engine against viscosity and thermal breakdown!”
My stupor convinced me the voice was my doctor. My nose, throat and lungs was my engine. And I needed motor oil to feel better.
Freezing cold, but sweating a small mountain brook, I new I was suffering from thermal breakdown. But I had no idea what viscosity was.
The dictionary didn’t help. “Viscosity” is a sucker definition, meaning it says something like “having or pertaining to anything viscous.” Then you look up “viscous” and it says “see viscose.” The definition of “viscose” is “having viscosity,” so you just feel like Noah Webster is somewhere pointing and laughing.
I called Quaker State to demand a refund.
The operator — I’ll call her Sue because I think that’s what she said her name was — argued with me for 20 minutes as to whether or not my dictionary was defective and why Quaker State’s was liable for the cost. I took her through what I then termed the “Loop of Viscosity” but logic isn’t a prerequisite to answer phones at an oil company.
Sue pulled through and concocted a definition of “viscosity,” based on a long list of synonyms she had in front of her. I wondered to myself why she would depend upon Webster’s Thesaurus if my Webster’s Dictionary was faulty.
Anyhow, the Webster’s/Sue the phone lady edition of the dictionary says viscosity is, “The quality of being sticky.”