Regular readers recall my references to the movie “The Tao of Steve” and its three cool Steves:
Two of them are fictional — astronaut-turned-cyborg Steve Austin …
… and Hawaii Five-O …
… or Hawaii Five-0 chief Steve McGarrett:
The third is, or was, a real person — actor Steve McQueen.
Which brings to mind an eternal question: What is cool?
There are probably three elements of coolness. One is apparent effortlessness — the ability to do what you’re supposed to be doing, preferably well, without breaking a sweat. (Think James Bond.)
Another is the ability to come up with the correct line for every occasion, such as …
McQueen in “The Magnificient Seven”: “We deal in lead, friend.”
McQueen in “The Cincinnati Kid”: “I don’t need marked cards to beat you, pal.”
McGarrett I: “You know, it’s a funny thing. I’m used to Intelligence playing it cool. Really cool. But you seem more interested in a quiet funeral than in finding out who killed your man.”
Austin: “Well, thanks for the ride, Oscar. I’ll try and forget the conversation.”
McQueen in “The Towering Inferno”: “When there’s a fire, I outrank everybody here. Now, one thing we don’t want is a panic. Now, I could tell them, but you ought to do it. Just make a nice cool announcement to all your guests and tell them the party’s being moved down below the fire floor. Right now.”
McQueen: “When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it.”
McGarrett 2.0: “Guess the rest of us who don’t have a seat on an aircraft carrier will just have to get out our snorkels.”
Having a scriptwriter is useful to achieve verbal coolness.
The third is distance, including emotional distance, which is probably where the term came from. One never really gets close to a cool person. It helps as well to not know embarrassing details about that person. You probably would not think that, to use a random and (as far as I know) fictitious example, McQueen was cool if you knew that he ate paste in grade school.
The thing, of course, is that coolness cannot be acquired. Either you are cool, or you are not, and no efforts to make yourself cool will actually make you cool.