Danny Henley: Blame it on the genes

Danny Henley

Most people do not believe they are particularly creative. They perceive creativity as being limited to those who write unforgettable music or spellbinding novels, or produce works of art such as breath-taking paintings or awe-inspiring sculptures.

Truth be told, those who engage in coming up with excuses for the things they did that they shouldn’t have done, or the things they should have done but didn’t, are actually some of the most creative people on the face of the earth.

Oh to be sure, there are those who stick with tried and true excuses. Among the most popular are:

- I thought I told you.

- That’s the way we’ve always done it.

- No one told me to go ahead.

- I didn’t think it was very important.

- I’m so busy I just can’t get around to it.

- Why bother? The boss won’t buy it.

- I didn’t know you were in a hurry for it.

- That’s his job, not mine.

- I forgot.

- I’m waiting for an OK.

- That’s not my department.

- How did I know this was different?

There are those who use a degree of creativity by putting a new spin on an old excuse. We’ve all heard “the dog ate my homework.” A veteran high school teacher reported receiving a note containing an interesting adaptation of that excuse: “Please excuse Lori for not having her algebra homework. The cat had kittens on it last night.”

While those in education are frequently exposed to a variety of excuses that run the gamut of creativity, law enforcement officers are undoubtedly high on the list of those who hear excuses.

Amazingly, some of the most creative are those who are otherwise inhibited by too much alcohol. For example, a drunken driver in Menlo Park, Calif., offered the following excuse to police for being unable to perform a finger-to-nose sobriety test: “I can’t do it. I used to have a big nose, but I got a nose job and now I can’t find it.”

Based on a recent news report, I’d almost bet that in the near future law enforcement may be hearing a “good” excuse from bad drivers: My genes made me do it.

If you stayed awake in science - I fell asleep in class because I was up so late redoing my homework that the dog ate - you probably remember that genes influence traits such as skin color, eye color and height. Genes also determine if we can curl our tongue, or have cheek dimples, attached ear lobes, freckles, straight or bent pinkies, a widow’s peak or pattern baldness.  

U.S. researchers report finding that people with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people with a different DNA sequence. Approximately 30 percent of Americans have the variant, according to the research team at the University of California Irvine.

A total of 29 people were tested, seven of which had the gene variation. They were placed in a driving simulator and asked to drive 15 laps. A week later they repeated the task. Researchers found that those with the mutant gene did worse consistently.

“These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away,” said Dr. Steven Cramer.

The gene controls a protein that affects memory, so it has potential as an excuse for not only bad driving, but forgetting to do a school or work assignment, or even a spouse’s birthday. This news could be a real boon to excuse-makers, provided they don’t forget it.

Danny Henley writes for the Hannibal Courier-Post in Hannibal, Mo.