Happy (get a) Clue Year!

Posted: December 31, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in Me & Mine, Observations
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Losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, salt, or Romanian women, taking a class…these are the standard New Year’s resolutions. I avoid the gym for the first couple weeks in January. That’s about how long it takes most people’s resolve to start to subside. I’d be lying if I said I was any better. When God was handing out tenacity and self-control, I was in the Twinkie line…chain smoking and drinking a beer.

There is one thing I would like many of my fellow human beings to resolve to do in the new year, and to please, please, PLEASE in the name of everything holy, try to stick with it. I want people to strive to find a clue…to think…and to exercise and develop common sense! Intelligence and stupidity can come in many forms. Some people are just dumb. They have low IQs, their brain is a rickety old elevator powered by an elderly and underfed gerbil. I have written to my elected officials to ask if we could work out some kind of federal ID program for the double digit IQs folks out there…Nothing mean spirited or intrusive…maybe a forehead tattoo. Just so we know who were dealing with before we are ordering ice cream, choosing a window at the DMV or getting in line at Radio Shack.

I’m not talking about the intellectually stupid. Their brain power or lack thereof is not their fault. I’m talking about those of average or better intelligence who do mind bogglingly stupid things, regularly. These are college grads, with important pieces of paper and letters after their name, who still haven’t figured out the geometrical intricacies of parking their shopping cart across a grocery store aisle as opposed to to the side of it. I can’t for the life of me relate to this thought process…and I’ve tried. It made my head hurt. They don’t pull their cars into the opposite lane to avoid traffic do they? (Well, sometimes they actually do, which is sad) The reason they don’t is because there is an obvious risk involved. Maybe instead of stopping, heaving a loud sigh and glaring angrily at people who clog our shopping aisles up, we should back our cart up 10 or 20 feet, and then charge our cart at theirs going top speed and BASH. Organic range free eggs and Newman’s Diet Caesar dressing everywhere, and possibly (hopefully) the offending party gets a minor injury and has to pay for and clean up everything broken. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to silently hand these people a bill and a mop?

Today I asked my best friend what she thought might happen if I asked these people why they did such a clueless thing. We both agreed that no matter how politely I asked that it probably wouldn’t go over too well. “Excuse me miss, I’m a writer and I have been working on a piece about super markets and human behavior. I noticed you placed your cart across the aisle while you debate your tuna options. The Bumble Bee solid white is on sale, by the way, over by the register. I love that stuff. Ever put scallions in your tuna salad? No? Oh give it a try, it’s lovely. Anyhoo… getting back to your cart…my question, and I gather by the 4 or 5 other shoppers here waiting for you, theirs as well, is . . .um. . .Why?” My best friend and I agreed that there isn’t a polite enough preface to any question that points out someone’s cluelessness. We conversed a bit longer until she closed with our standard “Honey, I love you very, very much…but you exhaust me.” Awww.

I have a friend; Robert, who is not stupid. When there is something he wants or needs, he is incredibly intelligent, tenacious and resourceful. But there are far too many moments where he is maddeningly obtuse and certain things he does, repeatedly and chronically are simply unacceptable. Lateness, for example…he is regularly up to an hour or an hour and a half late…doesn’t care who he keeps waiting, how much he screws things up or what they miss out on…he is going to be late. What makes me, his other friends, family, employers etc. want to beat him about the head and face with large pieces of lumber are his explanations.

“The train was late.” or “There was traffic.” I have tried to question him in regards to these excuses slowly and methodically, so that maybe, just maybe he will see that his excuses are not only lame, but that they insult one’s intelligence.

“The train was late.”
“The train, huh?”
“How long does it take you to get here using the train?”
“I dunno…maybe 30 or 40 minutes.”
“Uh huh, and you’re 90 minutes late.”
“So, you left half an hour before you were supposed to meet me?”
“Uh, I left 15 minutes before I was supposed to meet you.”
“So, you were going to be late and you knew it?”
“I guess.”
“You guess.”

I pause here and put the beer bottle I am becoming very tempted to hit him with out of my immediate reach.

“You take the train every day, right? A couple times a day even?”
“And, does it seem like the train is usually sitting in the station awaiting your arrival? Has that ever happened, or do you find that usually you have to wait, 10, 15 or 20 minutes for the train to pull into the station?”
“Uh, what do you mean?”
“I mean that sane people, people who think make allowances for the inevitable bullshit that happens with public transportation.”
“How am I supposed to know if the train is going to be late or bypass stations?”
“By living in the city for over 35 years and figuring out the painfully obvious law of averages.” I say wondering exactly how quickly I can grab the bottle and hit him with it.
“What are you so pissed off about? I’m here aren’t I?”
“Yeah…an hour and a half late.”

Robert, a college educated man, a creative man with good taste capable of brilliant conversations about art, politics, history and current events has not been able, in his 45 years on earth to figure out that rush hour is between 7-10 am and 4-6 pm and that there will be traffic that slows things down. Would a severe beating help? I think of how dog owners when housebreaking a new pup shove their faces into their doggies flop and swat them on the bottom with a rolled up newspaper…and lo and behold…the dog makes the connection in a week or three. I guess the question is, what do I shove Robert’s face into? My watch? More importantly, what do I beat him with?

Doesn’t everyone have a Robert or two in their lives?

My inspiration for this piece has to do with my freelance catering business. I have a small business I am trying to get off the ground where I provide catering, bar staff, servers, party planning and DJs. Naturally nights like New Year’s Eve and Halloween are busy nights. Yet people feel the need to try to book with me 24-48 hours prior to the big night. People who work in the service/ hospitality business, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion; don’t sit staring at their phones and begging them to ring on Dec 29th.

Since this is business I refrain from making comments about being the sharpest crayon in the box.

I think what we need to do as a society is to develop a system for a polite indication of gross and willful derpitude. A gesture would work well here. No, not my favorite of my fingers…Something polite, remember? Maybe we could look into the eyes of the offending party and gently tap the side of our heads while smiling sympathetically and kindly.

I wonder what, if anything would work.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Happy new year, Love! I will try to annoy you as little as possible!

  2. Sonya says:

    I have written you a book in response; you do not have to read it by any means.

    I am terrible about being on time to things; I have always taken full accountability for that because I own a clock and am fully aware of the time but minutes seem to slip through my fingers like sand, before I know it I am late to whatever I was supposed to be doing. I do not make excuses, in fact I hardly give reason at all; most people know it is part of my character. A while ago my parents were supposed to come over to my house, my boyfriend and I made a lavish meal and awaited their arrival. They were over two hours late but I could give a crap. Mike was up in arms, pacing and shit. It made very little sense to me as we were in no hurry to begin the meal then he said “I understand now, how can I expect you to ever be on time if your parents are this way?” I never even considered that they too behaved this manner, even worse than I, so maybe it was something that was modeled for Robert and he is completely unaware that others do not operate in such a way.

    Rather than shove Robert’s face in dog shit, I would suggest giving him a taste of his own medicine. It is possible he is too aloof to give a crap which will make it more difficult to curb his behavior, but it doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of the waiting game. If he is always an hour and a half late, show up to whatever you are meant to do two and a half hours late (that way he will have waited for you an hour), give no reason and a half assed apology. When he brings up your tardiness again say something to the effect of “I assumed you would be late(and shrug).” It is better than telling him you did this as payback, just hint around the fact that it is payback.

    In social psychology we were given an assignment wherein we break social norms… a social norm would be to wait patiently (or at least impatiently silently) for the shoppers to move their stuff out of the way, the first few times I am sure it will be mad uncomfortable, but you should very obviously physically move their carts out of the way for them (maybe stare them down while you do it). It would be even more impactful if they were still holding onto said cart. Oh man if you do that you will have to post up how it goes. I think I might try that next time I am at the store. The worst place on earth is Walmart (which I avoid like Robert avoids his clock); in a heartbeat I would ram my shopping cart into any one of those people.

    • Thank you for the Great American Novel comment. LOL Seriously, I’m thrilled that someone took so much time and thought to respond to my ramblings.

      I have discussed chronic lateness with friends in the past. Some people are genuinely scatterbrained. They’r enot stupid, they are just disorganized, especially with promptness.

      Other’s simply don’t give a shit. File them under “Rude”

      Then you have the passive -aggressive types who use lateness as some kind of strange power play.
      What drives me the most crazy about Robert and a few other’s I have met si when you emphasize to them how important it is for them to be on time for whatever occassion and they are still late. There is simply no reason in this day and age not to keep someone who is waiting for you abrest of the situation via text or cell.

      The other big difference with the Robert’s of the world and people like me is how much we care. Robert doesn’t care if he keeps other’s waiting. I DO. It goes against the grain for me.

      • Sonya says:

        (Your post kept me entertained I figured I might as well respond)

        Yeah being late makes you uncomfortable and being on time makes him uncomfortable. We all like to keep a balance of normalcy so it is very likely he will not change his ways unless shown how to, or rather why he should. I can understand your frustrations and as we age we get more set in our ways, talking isnt going to do it for him I fear, maybe you should shove his nose in dog shit. :p

  3. Yeah. I think the straw that borke the camels back with him was when he was late for a mutual friends wedding. I was in the wedding party. I was so angry that he was so selfish on someone elses big day, especially after he was told he needed to be on time.


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