I guess I’m not really as nice a person as you probably think I am. I mean, I strongly believe in niceness. I sincerely believe that the world would work so much more smoothly if everyone was nice and I do try but sometimes it’s so difficult. To practice niceness is not too difficult but to think nice thoughts is nearly impossible sometimes.
Being nice is never more difficult than it is when I encounter unbelievably stupid people. I actually do feel sort of bad about feeling this way. If people honestly can’t help being… let’s say “intellectually challenged” then getting angry or impatient with them is the same as getting angry or impatient with a person who is slow and walks with a limp. Such a person is not as handicapped as a person in a wheel chair but they still have no choice in the matter. But stupid people – not people who are truly mentally challenged but people who function more or less normally in society but who are shockingly ignorant about certain things – are so much harder to deal with.
I have two general examples that are getting under my skin right now. First example: computer stupidity. Those stories are hilarious but also sad. The guy from Roswell who turns his monitor to the wall every night so the government can’t spy on him is my favorite but I suspect that one was made up. It’s just a little too outrageous. Some of the others though, I’ve met people exactly like that – people who are terrified of computers and especially the Internet and fear all sorts of ridiculously impossible bad stuff that they are sure will happen.
These people have completely misinterpreted warnings about things that could happen if one is not careful online and now have fixed in their minds the notion of the Internet as a vast mysterious realm of terror with evil lurking, ready to destroy them and everything they hold dear at the next click of the mouse. How do you get through to people like that? How do you convince people to take reasonable precautions – like not sending your bank account numbers to those nice folks from Nigeria – without having them thinking that computers are some sort of black magic, evil force device?
Of course, computer stupidity is not just limited to the fearful. Many people merrily surf the Internet every day without having the slightest clue what it is or how it works:
Customer: “Can you copy the Internet for me on this diskette?”
* * *
“You really should get some English literature on your Internet. All I can find is computer-related stuff. The computers at the University have all sorts of information on their Internet. Maybe you should ask them for a copy?”
* * *
Student: “I’m not on a web site. I’m on www.ask.com.”
* * *
I used to work at the IT Support Desk for a university. A librarian at one of our libraries was surfing the web one day and came across a site that said it was best viewed using the Internet Explorer browser. So she called me and said she needed a “browser” to view this site, and could we install a browser onto her system?
I told her that if she was viewing the site already, she was already using a browser, but, unsatisfied with that answer, she went over my head to the Directory of Libraries and said that we were being uncooperative about providing her with a browser.
* * *
Boss: (brandishing a newspaper ad) “Sign us up for this Earthlink thing!”
Me: “We don’t need that. It’s just another ISP. We have AOL.”
Boss: (blank stare)
Me: “A…O…L. That’s our ISP.”
Boss: “But I want to send email to (his friend), and HE’s on EARTHLINK! We can’t send email to him on Earthlink while we’re using that AOL thing!”
Me: “Sure we can. We can send email to anywhere we like.”
Boss: “No, that’s impossible. I’ve looked into it…we have to be on Earthlink, too. And that Netmeeting and Microsoftnet…we’re just going to have to join them all. Will I need a different e-dress for every one, do you know?”
Ah, bosses. You gotta love ‘em. But that guy is not so different from a lot of other people. Everyone thinks they know. They’ve “looked into it” or they learned it from someone who “knows what they’re doing.” Grrrr…. Sometimes I want to… to… well, to not be so darn nice anymore. Lots more stories here. I couldn’t be a tech support person. Before the end of my first week, if they didn’t fire me for bluntly telling someone how stupid they are they’d have to haul me away to the loony bin for the effects of having to hold it in.
The second general example of stupidity that is bugging me right now is stupid rumors about Barack Obama. This is quite a bit more important than computer stupidity. I don’t even know what to say about this. She said it better than I could. Much more fair-minded than I am. I just want to start slapping people around.
A life-long annoyance for me is people who don’t understand satire. (not to mention metaphor) You can explain it to some people and they will seem to get it but the next time they see satire they take it literally just like always. Their brains just aren’t wired right I guess, but you would think that anyone who is smart enough to dress themselves every morning would be smart enough to realize that such a thing as satire exists and that they have a problem recognizing it so maybe they should be careful about taking things literally.
I don’t consider myself to be a genius or even unusually smart, just average. That’s why the title of this is “It’s Hard Being Normal” – because I consider myself normal. But that would mean that there are an awful lot of people out there who are way below normal. Half the people? Because I’m right in the middle? I don’t know. It seems like most people are smart enough but afraid to use their brains. And don’t give me that nonsense about age. There are people who are a lot younger than me who don’t get computers and who believe all the ridiculous Obama rumors. It’s probably a good thing I don’t get out much. If I met more people sooner or later I might slap someone.