Amateurs vs Idiots
I’ve always had a kind of grumpy old man observational style. I’ve complained about people who think the iPhone is the first, last and only mobile device. I’ve complained about people who get in my way when I’m ordering coffee. Hell, I’ve complained about people who shouldn’t be on my lawn.
But as I reflect on the idiocy of the average person, it’s not that they’re actually idiots. I call these people idiots because I think they should know better, which means my definition of “idiot” isn’t that they are stupid, but rather a matter of degrees of experience -- that is, I’m more likely to think someone is being an idiot if they aren’t very skilled at doing something that I am skilled at, like ordering coffee.
I’m not an idiot when ordering coffee. I speak multiple varieties of barista jargon and I know what I want before I even head to the coffee shop. But I am an idiot at Dairy Queen. I remember going through the drive through and after my passengers had ordered their Blizzards with half a candy shop on top, I had to ask the speaker on the menu board, “Um… do you have something like a chocolate milkshake?”
Markie accused me of being Fraiser Crane at that moment, and I suppose I was.
Unfortunately, to get to any level of skill, you need to practice and learn. I get really frustrated every time I try to make it through an airport to make a connecting flight. There are people wandering around the walkways, usually glancing at their phones and then looking around, drifting in random directions or stopping in their tracks without warning and generally making it impossible for me to get by.
I’m sure I used to be that guy. Airports, after all, aren’t the most intuitive places. You don’t go to the California terminal to find your San Jose flight. No, you have to check the monitors because you might arrive Terminal C and have to take a train to Terminal E (which might be down a flight of stairs) to find some almost randomly numbered gate. Which probably changed in the time it took you to get there.
Fly often enough, and it’s easy to know where you’re going, but most people don’t fly every week. Hell, most people don’t fly every year. It shouldn’t be surprising that the airport is filled with amateurs.
But, some things there’s just no excuse for -- we all drive all the time in the US, so I am constantly amazed at how many idiots there are driving. They should have figured it out by now, but they just don’t learn.
No, if you're refusing to learn… that’s a sign of being an idiot.
There’s always a guy in a technical project who starts off a meeting by saying, “I don’t know anything about technology but…” and then goes off into some idiotic, uninformed set of requirements that you can’t logically challenge because he has already freely admitted that he’s an idiot and he has no desire to stop being an idiot. Indeed, he has clearly stated that he prides himself on being an idiot so there’s no sense fighting him.
If this person was an amateur this could be a teaching moment. I can rephrase, reposition, and possibly realign the conversation and help the uniformed individual learn, grow and strive beyond their limitations.
But, a true idiot is someone that you have to work around. You have to simplify things for them, and take on the responsibility of handling the complicated things that are beyond their abilities. Which is a pain in the ass, but it’s what mature adults do.
I’d like to be able to say, “idiots are like small children, so you can’t get mad at them” except for the fact that A) I often get mad at small children and B) children will grow out of their idiocy. But for some, idiocy is a way of life.