It takes me about eight minutes to get to work. According to Google Pedometer it is exactly 1.4314 miles from my front door to the entrance to the parking garage at the hotel where my restaurant operates. Only ten blocks of Marigny and twelve blocks of French Quarter sit between where I work and where I play. My best time on my bike with little traffic, well-timed lights and almost no fumbling pedestrian tourists was six minutes. But seeing as how I make the trip twice a day it is possible for one to believe that somehow, within such a small, brief space, stupid people can not only ruin my day, but nearly kill me.
I was cruising along next to stand-still traffic when one of the drivers made a couple of decisions. First of all, he decided he absolutely had to have a parking spot on the side of the street, and secondly, he decided obtaining aforementioned spot was more important than my life, or at least well-being. With no warning, no blinker and no side mirror for that matter, he quite suddenly jerked his car into me, ramming me off of the road. I fell off my bike and halfway into his open passenger-side window before finally stopping on the ground. I wonder had I not actually entered his vehicle, would he have stopped at all?
I stood up and yelled a stream of profanities indicating he should have at least used his blinker. He didn’t hear me.
I leaned into his window and yelled it again. “Fucking blinker, maybe!?” With a bewildered faced he yelled back, “Blinker?”
I returned his bewildered stare with my own and realized I had nothing left to say I deemed within his processing capacities. At a complete loss, I repositioned the chain on my bike, adjusted my brakes, and continued on to work dumbfounded.
I think we all know the feeling. We’re so overwhelmed with the evident idiocy bearing down on us we just cave into silence as if anything we could say would fall upon deaf ears. I’ve noticed this trend too often abroad and at work. A fellow cook tried to tell me oil doesn’t burn. Oil. Yes, oil. The very same oil that, through combustion (burning) powers much our technology. He told me that when heated in a skillet, oil wouldn’t burn. As if that weren’t enough he told me water WOULD burn.
To be sure I asked, “Are you thinking of when a little water mixes with your oil and makes it flare up? Is that what you mean?” He assured me, it was not what he meant. So with the power of science I heated two pans as hot as I could and poured water into one. Naturally it evaporated out. Then I poured a little oil into the other, equally hot pan and low and behold it burst into flame! He shook his head and said, “I don’t know, man that oil must be dirty or something.” Never mind that I poured it from a new bottle. As if channeling Bill O’Reilly, he simply shrugged off and dismissed any new information not to his liking.
Some people also tend to generalize with “everybody” when trying to prove a point, as well. I asked a coworker yesterday why she and her familiars were all so sue-happy. She responded, “’Cause everybody’s broke! We all need money!” Any claim with “everybody” is too easily disproved. I said, “I’m not broke. I’m part of ‘everybody’. I just proved you wrong.”
Today, in fact, I was trying to teach someone how to make a sauce he’d never made. As soon as he saw me cooking on the stove he (the student) told me (the teacher), “Let me show you how to sauté.” I rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah, yeah, ‘hot skillets’, I know, but it doesn’t matter for this.” He said, “But that’s how it’s done.” I told him, “I’m not doing it, am I? It looks like ‘it’s done’ all kinds of ways, doesn’t it? If you keep doing things ‘how it’s done’ you’ll never do anything new.”
That’s really my main concern; that nothing new will happen. Sure, the feeling of being surrounded by idiots is frustrating and annoying. We want to be understood, but some people are either less intelligent or simply communicate differently than we do. With so many people from so many varying backgrounds, occasional misunderstanding and miscommunication is inevitable. What I think can be prevented, however, is the hindrance of intellectual progress due to in-the-box thinking and poor education.
When an adult with a registered driver’s license operating a motor vehicle doesn’t know what a blinker is there is a problem. When an adult working as a professional cook doesn’t know that combustible liquid combusts when heated – or rather, fire = bad – there is a problem. And if we keep on doing things “how it’s done” then we’ll never contribute to the overall learning in the human experience. We have to challenge ourselves and constantly question all around us. Fix what isn’t broken, or in another word, improve.
I don’t think anyone is really stupid; I think there are people who don’t often enough challenge or critically view their surroundings and habits. They take it all for granted. How much do you do in a day just because you were told to? How many things do you do they way you do them because no one ever told you any differently? Look at your day differently and see what you can come up with. I bet you’ll be surprised.