Monday, June 10, 2013

That's Not Really So Dumb, When You Think About It

Recently I encountered a thread called The dumbest thing you've ever heard someone say/ask? on the O/T [off topic] board on tigerdroppings. The thread is, as you can predict from the title, about the dumbest things posters can recall that they have heard people say or ask. It makes for humorous reading. Some of my favorite examples:

I was flying to Hawaii from Los Angeles and, when they were explaining to us the life jackets and everything, I heard a lady look over to her husband and ask "We have to fly over water?" 

Earlier today I was sitting on this . . . beach near my apartment(in Boston). These two girls were walking by me and one looks at the other and says "what ocean is this?"

A student asked an ELL student named Juanita how to say her name in Spanish.

Some questions I've been asked by students 

-"Is Alaska really pink?" when we were looking at a map of the states. 

-"Is that the same place we go for Spring Break" when discussing Manuel Noriega.

"Namaste. That's Japanese for 'goodbye.'" - Talkative Midwestern idiot behind my wife, son, and me on Small World at Disney.

It occurs to me, though, in reading through the thread, that some of the examples may have been meant as jokes. Not particularly funny jokes, but jokes. Some examples:

Some girl at a college football game asked where the yellow first down line was at on the field.

On another note a guy from BR that tailgates with us whilst eating Pastalaya [a pasta version of jambalaya, a rice dish] says "I'll bet this would be good if it had rice in it" 

We were talking about.birthdays and this this girl says her birthsay was June 10th (or whatever day its been a while). I asked "really what year? " she says,"well, its every year"

My husband would definitely have said the first two. Then I would have sighed that sigh I use on such occasions and given him the look, while reminding myself he is often genuinely funny. 

I would have said the third.

Others strike me as responses being given out of habit even though the situation is wrong:

Several years back in the drive-thru: "is that for here or to go?"

I can't remember if this was at JFK or Atlanta, but a few years ago, the officer at Customs asked me for my Green Card. After i handed her my US passport. 

This was also in a line for US citizens and permanent residents. [emphasis added]

The worker at the drive through says, “Is that for here or to go” to customers inside dozens of times a day, just like the customs official asks for green cards from permanent residents. Those were probably slips of the tongue, not ignorance.

Then there are the responses that leave you wondering just who has the cognitive issues:

Last week I heard a lady in the elevator tell another lady that one of their coworkers had a baby. The other lady asked how much did the baby weigh and the women replied "6 lbs and 14 oz". 

That one was questioned by several posters who didn’t see anything wrong with it, but the first person to do so quoted it as “6”, 14 ounces”. That led to other posters assuming the error was the woman saying, “6 inches, 14 ounces”, which would have been odd. I think the problem was likely that the original poster somehow thought 14 ounces was more than a pound, although it’s also possible that the 14 was a typo and the woman had said something like, “6 pounds, 18 ounces”.

The thread is actually one of the pleasanter examples of what I call the “Isn’t It Awful?” threads, after one of the games that Eric Berne, father of Transactional Analysis, described in the book Games People Play. Such threads cover subjects like parents who allow their children to behave in ways the posters can’t ever remember having behaved as children, despite the fact that most of them are one-third to one half my age; people daring to appear publicly and do normal things while fat; and what I call the “I’m mad because there are women who do not care about my penis and what makes it happy” threads. As Tigerdroppings started off as a college sports oriented forum, there are a lot of those.

I can’t say I am immune to the charm of Isn’t It Awful threads. After all, I make a lot of Isn’t It Awful blogposts myself. When we most suspect ourselves of being unattractive, stupid, and amazingly ridiculous  or totally invisible to the rest of the world, it’s comforting to think the same about them. Comforting, but distancing. It’s when we suspect ourselves of being unattractive, stupid, and amazingly ridiculous  or totally invisible to the rest of the world that we need to get closer, not farther away.

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