1549 Grist.

I always struggle with accepting that, or perhaps even understanding, that some people are not as smart as me. It was really frustrating when I was young when I would explain things and other people wouldn’t understand right away, and I had to explain multiple times. I always seemed to get to the meaning of things faster than everyone else and it frustrated me to have to wait. The only time this didn’t happen was when a subject required memorization. The times tables, for instance, too me forever to pass. They are what they are and you just have to know them. There’s no interpretation with them. They just are. I think that had a lot to do with why I never did well in math because you are expected, for some insane reason, to remember all the gears instead of understanding the machine of it. It put a mental block in me about the subject that I don’t really have now, but it’s too late for that to matter. In any event even that didn’t make me really understand that everybody has a different brain and people have to get things in their own time, in their own way. That didn’t really sink in until I was well into my 20s. I began to really grasp that intelligence is not easy to define. Of course now I know that science is grappling with the question of what intelligence is all the time, and schools are struggling to find some way to fairly assess the intelligence of diverse beings. All that said, stupid people are frustrating. I don’t think any child should be left behind, but they can ride in another car maybe.

I am terrible at service jobs. I don’t like dealing with people because as soon as they stop being cool I match their tone. The shittier they get the shittier I get. Being able to be a good waiter is a valuable skill that, for someone like me, is almost impossible to learn. If you get ketchup instead of mustard you don’t need to pitch a big baby fit, but a lot of people can’t seem to handle the imperfections of the world they live in. Scrape it off, ask for a bottle of mustard, and shut your bitch mouth.

I am a terrible waiter. I’d rather have a mop in my hand. A floor either is, or is not, clean. There’s not a lot of gray area you have to stumble around in. I like that. I can handle the solitude of mopping a floor for three hours. I have friends who can’t, but they can serve a table with a level of zeal that boggles my mind. Hungry people are shitty, and people in general are assholes. I can hardly stand to go out to eat with my extended family because it’s like they become sociopaths as soo as their asses hit a booth. My sister and I were expected to behave politely in situations like that, and apparently that did not happen in certain branches of my family tree. It seems like they just let the squirrels loose and they started attacking nuts left and right. Sometimes I wonder just how much spit some of my family members eat over the course of a year from being dicks in restaurants.

I’m rambling a bit here… What I’m saying is that everybody has their skills and weaknesses and we should respect that in each other. You can’t tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and tell them the jobs they need to get to do that are worthless if you want the world to work. If you want your fucking Big Mac treat the person handing it to you like another human being who is just trying to get by the same as you. Consider that they may have a set of skills you don’t and are valuable in a way that is different to you, but not less than you.

But if they’re just idiots just do your best not to make their lives any worse than they already are…


The weird thing with math is that higher level math (the kind that’s more abstract and doesn’t deal with numeric values as much) tends to be completely different from how math is presented in grade school. In fact, one of the biggest jokes in math is that proper mathematicians are awful at basic math such as addition and multiplication. I don’t think we should do away with teaching these skills since they’re essential, along with reading and writing, but I do feel like we should explain to students at some point that advanced math is very different from basic math.

That’s not to say that everyone should enjoy or study math, just that people have a false view of what mathematics is really all about, and school is to blame for that.

Hear hear!

I get why nobody learns theory of rings in middle school but it does seem like throwing all this stuff in one field called “mathematics” keeps people from learning the parts they might be able to. There have got to be components that could be taught separately. Logic maybe? Graph theory? It’s so easy to connect things back to numerical skills, but those connections could wait until college.

There’s a strip from Sandra and Woo that kindof goes along these lines. A kid genious is trying to tell this bigshot mathematician that she can work with him for a scholarship. He asks some large number algebra question, and she balks at the arithmetic since she has no paper to work it out, and isn’t good with arithmetic in her head. However, she can quote laws and theories of physics and apparently build a cold fusion reactor from lego.

“you are expected, for some insane reason, to remember all the gears [in math] instead of understanding the machine of it”
This sounds strange to me precisely because I remember being able to rederive results (“the gears”) in maths from a few basic formulae that were easy to remember because I knew where they came from, without having to go right back to rock bottom every time. One can’t really understand “the machine” of maths without at least knowing what “the gears” look like. I hated humanities subjects like history and geography because the way they were taught, they were nothing *but* memorisation.

Absolutely. I didn’t really get history until we had a teacher that started showing us the patterns of it rather than simply shoveling names and dates down our throats. Remembering the patterns, I could then start to apply names and dates to those, and they made sense. For example, for the sake of argument, the saying “History repeats itself” is equivalent to saying “History follows a pattern”. Napoleon, generic power hungry fool that wants to take over the world, tries to invade Russia and in his hubris underestimates the winters and the endurance of the Russian people against it. He loses most of his men and ends up being forced to retreat. Fast forward to Hitler, another power hungry fool. He remembers Napoleon’s plan, but in his hubris thinks that with modern technology he can succeed, but doesn’t equip his men for the winter either. He loses most of his men and is forced to retreat. He does eventually come back and take a foot hold, but is defeated in the end because of the same thing.

Sorry for the text wall :/

That’s one thing I love about Russia. They dwell in one of the harshest environments man can live in and use it to their advantage. They are one of the most formidable forces in the world because of their adaptability. There’s something to be admired in that, I think.

I’m a teacher by day and I have to admit: Sometimes when the kids aren’t being obedient little worker drones on a subject because they just don’t grasp it I find myself stunned. It’s never what you would expect and they always just kind of stair at you. Like cows watching a passing train. So you go back and explain again, some times they get it, and some times you have broken the material down so much that its almost as it they do not understand a fundamental aspect of reality (the opposite of multiply is divide for instance). Its always strange.

everyone needs to watch Waiting
the moral of that movie was “don’t mess with people who handle your food” right?

I can relate to this on so many levels, and I’m unfortunately stuck in a service job. I’ve never been openly hostile, but I have a very expressive face, and I’m a closed mouth smiler, so even that seems disingenuous. Usually, my frustration boils down to one of two things: First, you can’t possibly be THAT much dumber than I am, and secondly, you have a tiny computer in your pocket. There is no excuse for not having some basic knowledge of events, laws, etc.

I’ve done my fair share of tutoring in math since I’ve been doing the college thing. The main trick is to do your best to meet your student at their level. Also, you absolutely cannot move on until they get the foundation well and good.

I remember going to a tutor for calculus. Even though I had technically passed a lesser class, my tutor was stuck on the fact I was in a calculus class, and was trying to explain something that I had not properly developed my foundation for.

I didn’t go back. I still haven’t passed calculus. I haven’t tried getting a bachelor’s degree for some time, either. I’m about to have three associate’s degrees, though.

You have to remember that there are vast differences between ignorant, dumb and stupid.

All of us are ignorant about something. I know jack all about heart surgery, knitting, or why CERN has not made a micro black hole yet. That does not lessen my value as a person, that just means that I have not taken the time to learn about something.

Dumb is equated to lower IQ. As the whole notion of IQ is up for debate, so I usually refer to CPU speeds – some brains operate at a higher speed than others. My brain operates at a fairly high speed, but have had my ass handed to be by someone with a lower one. They took the time to learn something that I took for granted. I used to work at Pizza Hut with an autistic kid – he may have been ‘dumb’ but that guy worked harder than the rest of us ‘normal’ people.

Stupid has nothing to do with IQ. Stupid is not ignorant. Stupid is unwilling to use the knowledge that you have. Drinking and driving is stupid. Sticking a fork in a power outlet (when you are 23) is stupid. Having a MCSE and not being able to find the RAM is stupid. Stupid also frequently involves laziness.

My $0.02

Just a note, Ed is saying “managing AS store” instead of (what I assume you meant) “managing A store”.

It depends. There’s a difference between being ignorant (not knowing or limited understanding) and being wilfully ignorant (“I DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT [topic or point of discussion]!!!1!”).

Normal ignorance can be helped by learning and explaining things. Some people take longer than others, and it usually depends on the subject at hand. I, for example, don’t know shit about human physiology and medicine, but I want to repeatedly bash in the skulls of anti-vaxxer fucktards who would try to “cure” serious (and deadly) diseases using whatever homeopathic bullshit some online nutjob tells them to, since “VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM!!!1!” (I, personally, would still love my child if they grew to be autistic, so long as their immune system can fight off measles or whooping cough or whatever).

Yeah, I worked retail for several years. 2½ years at RadioShark, and two more years at a more upscale Mom & Pop electronics shop catering to the First Responder crowd. I also have a personality trait that prevents me from suffering fools gladly. Unfortunately, I don’t have my Dad’s intestinal fortitude to keep it submerged. I learned from the best how to be the Retail Customer from Hell.

There were two older gentlemen who frequented the Shack I worked at. They both had short, 3-letter last names, call them Mr. Abc and Mr. Xyz, and we had to write name and address on sales tickets. Yes, it’s true, in the 1980s the Shack still did not have computerized Point of Sale Systems — they had carbon paper pads. Anyway, the first time Mr. Xyz came in, I thought he was Mr. Abc — they looked that much alike, spoke alike, acted the same. And neither was a pleasant character. I got yelled at for putting the wrong name on the sales slip (and rightly so). It wasn’t until they strolled into the store a few minutes apart that I realized they really different men, not just some crotchety old bastard pulling my leg. Turns out they were first cousins — their mothers were sisters. I worked hard pleasing them, because they were such good customers (flinty attitudes aside), and at least one of them noticed — and mentioned it to my manager.

The dealer where I bought my last car is a terrible case in point. I’ve had numerous problems getting the expen$ive-option stereo to play MP3s on USB drives. They first told me no other customer had ever complained. Well, it has iHeartRadio, Pandora, Sirius and Slacker; maybe their inner-city clientele didn’t need MP3 sticks or Bluetooth. Then they made up some BS and lied to me about it, and finally told me I wasn’t using it correctly. Right. My BS is in Computer Science, and I know how to RTFM. Their idiot ‘technicians’ don’t.

The moral is, yes, good Customer Service is a premium, and it doesn’t come easily. But damn it, if you expect good service, don’t be an @$$#013 first crack off the bat.

Even if I wanted to dispute any of your post (which I don’t), I couldn’t. I have lost count of how many times I have tried to explain this very thing to others. The biggest problem I have with it (hopefully I am not the only one), is that once I witness an instance in which someone else’s thought patterns bar them from an understanding that I have achieved, I find myself involuntarily trying to simulate their train of thought, which NEVER ends well.

The public are arrogant, demanding, spiteful children. Especially when they think they own you because they “pay your wages.”

And especially when they think you’re just a lazy, underworked, overpaid government employee.

This is why I’m convinced that it should be a requirement for everyone to work at least one year working directly with the public in a job like retail or waitstaff. Then you learn that most people with said jobs are dealing with so much more than it appears, and the idea that they’re just people trying to get by just like you kindof sinks in. I now tell any cashier apologizing to me for something out of their control that I’ve been there, and they have nothing to apologize for. And I try to give anyone else in the service industry the benefit of the doubt when they seem to just be talking to each other for a short while, as they may be trying to help deal with a situation that I’m unaware of and that probably affects the service I’ll get somehow.

Wait! What? You mean government employees aren’t underworked and overpaid?

Then why try to get a government job?

I think what it comes down to in the end is that some people are so far up their own ass they’re unable to see their own weaknesses. Knowing that you’re not perfect, and being able to admit it, makes you humble. The problem in most people occurs when they get into the mindset that things are beneath them instead of realizing that those things are probably just not in their skill set.

As someone who’s prone to the occasional rectal spelunking expedition … I’ve noticed that this usually results from being hyper-aware of what a feckless farticle of fecal foulness I am … and then having someone rub my nose in it … arrogance is (often) an expression of insecurity. Not that any of this excuses my (or anyone else’s) crappiness, but knowing this can facilitate jerk wrangling …

I guess im odd because I’ve never felt that anyone was below me or above me. I mean we are all human regardless of smarts or other descriptors. Also i have found that being able to have most things roll of my back makes working in service really really easy.

“But if they’re just idiots just do your best not to make their lives any worse than they already are…”
I used to be a real jerk, and made people who just did not get things as fast as I did feel pretty bad in school. Not proud of that in retrospect. Later I learned different and gained the wisdom to appreciate how some things could be a struggle for some people, and to appreciate the victory it can be to master something, and most importantly the wisdom to not make someone’s life harder than it already is. Life is hard, particularly if you are stupid. Don’t make it harder for people less blessed than you – wish I’d known that as a teenager :-/

Hi Jackie,

Ed’s arms are really bothering me here. It looks like he’s been working out, but you weren’t sure how to draw the different muscle groups and so his muscles look quite odd. Googling a bit of arm physiology may help here.

Aside from that this is my first time commenting, and I wanted to say that you write a damn good story. :)

I know I’m late to the conversation here, but I also want to point out Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. People smart… math smart… body smart… introspective-type smart… there’s all sorts of intelligence, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

” I don’t think any child should be left behind, but they can ride in another car maybe. ”

Best line I’ve heard in a loooong time!

Also – very true that the idiots have a hard enough life already, they don’t need us adding misery to it. (but it’s so damn hard to avoid sometimes!)

Tricky, tricky, dangerous subject. It’s just too tricky for me to deal with. Make ’em ride in a different car, different bus, back of the bus? We fought too long and hard to go back to that, … And yet to hold back skylarks and eagles because the hedgehogs don’t have wings, that seems awful somehow– to not let them soar! It’s why my folks took us to museums and restaurants and parks instead of the movies and the race-track… Different strokes.

As a mathematician I assure you the higher math is more understanding the machine behind it. And so much insight <3

In my experience, basic math is virtually always taught via memorization. But many of the people who attempt to teach *how* to teach math say that it shouldn’t be about memorization. I think a big part of the problem is that elementary schools have one teacher per grade, and that teacher needs to know how to teach all the subjects. I think the thought process is, what little kids can learn is simple enough, any adult should know enough to teach all of these things to them. What matters is finding adults who have the patience to deal with the little kids for their entire jobs, a preference for dealing with young people, a lack of desire to exploit them in some way, and a willingness to work for basically subsistence living.

But teaching a subject takes a lot more than knowing the subject. Also, by the time you’ve graduated from high school, as just about any adult could tell you, most of the material from first grade is kind of foggy. You *know* all of the things, but they’re so interconnected with all of the other things you’ve learned since, it’s difficult to describe how you know them. One teacher per grade doesn’t really do any of the subjects justice, and it doesn’t do our children justice. But math is the subject where it’s felt the most.

I was only able to excel in math because I did third grade in a school that taught things differently, and in that one year, I went from struggling with my math homework because I couldn’t memorize the stuff to struggling with my math homework because it was so incredibly *easy* to apply the principles to get the answers. We only covered arithmetic in that school year, but it taught me enough of that to get to the point where schools had dedicated math teachers again who would explain the what rather than giving a table and saying to memorize this. But I wouldn’t have gotten a math teacher who explained stuff if I’d have been stuck with memorize this teachers up until that point – I’d have gotten more memorize this teachers.

In my opinion, the first thing they should teach in math is what my teacher taught me. “Mathemticians are inherently lazy.” Then, instead of making kids memorize stuff, they just teach them all the shortcuts they need.

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