Monday, September 07, 2009

Situational Intelligence

I frequently joked when I worked at Sears, a time of my life I prefer not to discuss if possible, that whenever someone entered a retail or service space they lose 50 IQ points, and I very rarely received any arguments to the contrary. This has led, in various places and with various people, to amusing situations such as:

'Should I take my car to the pedestrian mall?'

An argument where I vigorously tried to dissuade someone from believing the 1 1/2 carat gold connectors at the end of a 'premium' HD Cable did anything.

Having to explain approximately 4,754,422 times that if you had cable you did not need a digital converter box. Note that for those of you who know the Sears I worked at this is approximately four million seven hundred and fifty four thousand more customers than we actually had, but sometimes we had to explain it twice.

Dad being told that a woman didn't want a book on Taoism (pronounced correctly), but a book on Taoism (pronounced incorrectly)

Every Sears Protection Agreement sale ever (although this usually requires 75+ points of IQ loss).

And Nathan once attempting for a half an hour to make someone understand the difference between a digital converter and a DVD in the ultimate absurdist take on 'You can't get there from here.'

I thought, as I am want to do, that surely there could be no greater example of situational or locational intelligence loss as the shoppers at Sears and other retail stores experience. And yet, as happens so frequently in my life, I was proven wrong simply by continuing to exist, as if nature went out of it's way to provide further examples. Two things challenged this assertion.

First off, I began teaching. The whole world of education must be insane if the rest of it is anything like some of the environments that we run in to at Glory. I have received so many weird and unusual complaints that I have felt the need to make several blog posts and Facebook updates on the subject. Parents who are totally reasonable in the outside world who lose it when you start dealing with their precious little flowers.

And secondly I read an article stating that based on the total number of deaths per year, Thailand is the most lethal tourist spot for Britons. Accompanying the article was vox populi commentary weighing in on why this was so. The general consensus was that more than anyone else in the world or anywhere else in the world, when British people come to Thailand they just totally lose their shit.

Drunk driving, blithely wandering around bad parts of town, starting fights, buying drugs...the commentary section was this litany about the sins of Brits when they come to Thailand. Now in their defense this same litany could be given for any nation that visits Thailand, and it is easier to visit Thailand from the U.K. then from America, but it made me think.

The most dangerous state of mind for your IQ level is not 'I need to buy a plasma tv', but apparently 'I'm on vacation'. It is one of the fascinating things about living abroad, is getting to see just how many people do come out and throw away any standards of politeness or etiquette. My first week here with Nathan we were eating at a burrito shop in a mall, with a woman yelling at the serving staff because they brought her a smoothie not a Daquiri, and where the hell was her Tequila.

Important to note above and beyond the fact that she was using the same tones for a lack of liquor that people use when McDonalds gives them a fried chicken head in their McNuggets was the fact that it was 11:30 AM, and she was there with husband and more importantly child.

This ties in to my commentary on me-generations, but apparently the modern western world has decided that the moment you are on vacation the wheels of the universe exist only to supply you with a constant stream of entertainment, food and alcohol. I have seen just staggering displays towards local culture and people by tourists in my time, a distinction that you only really get to see when you live in a place versus visiting there.

Vacation is about enjoying yourself, I don't deny that. My Mom and Step-Dad like going to lighthouses. I personally find that terminally boring, but I don't deny them their dubious coastal pleasures. But that light-bearing enjoyment doesn't come at the expense of anyone who has to deal with them, except maybe Sean if he doesn't learn to love the lighthouse. Why have we decided that when we travel we get to be stupid, lazy and indolent?

I remember arguing when I was in France with someone on the trip, can't remember who, why it was unreasonable for them to expect all the signs and people at the Eiffel Tower to be in or speak English. As much as you'd think common sense would make it a cliche, I have heard many a farang out here using the 'speak slowly and loudly' method of translation.

And we wonder why people think we're stupid?


  1. It sounds to me like there is quite a lot of disenchantment going on in your life, about both the nature of perseverance and dedication, and also the way people act when they're supposed to be having fun.

    It seems to me that many of these problems are caused by people not thinking. The fact that you are aware of them shows that you've thought on the matter, an that is the first step to a generation of hard-working, socially aware people. Remember, there will always be jerks and idiots. It's up to you not to be one, and not to raise on as your child.

    Anyways, I hope your time there isn't all about learning disappointing things about your fellow man. Are you coming home for the holidays? If so, drop me a line.


  2. Dear Matthew,

    One of the several benefits to working in retail is the opportunity to observe mankind at its most basic - even primitive. Laughing at the follys and foibles of customers is a universally loved pasttime amongst the working class.

    Everyone should be required to work in retail at some point in their lives: it has the potential to make one a better person. I (in retrospect) know that I was a complete ass on many occasions in my past life - full of inflated self-importance, overly demanding, pissy, etc. Working at TC has cured me of these toxic tendencies. I am now a perfect customer - well most of the time.

    Unlike Cory I am taking these recent posts with more than a grain of salt. The slight bitterness adding flavor, I trust your inate sensibilities sufficiently not to be too concerned. And, of course, if you become truly despondent I also trust you would come home!

    I also think it is a family trait to (I won't identify genetic source) to be a bit sensitive to, and judgemental about, others.



  3. Ah this post takes me back to my days of working the call center. Helping the dregs of humanity (plus the eternally dense) upload min on their cell phones.
    Good stuff keep it coming. You know Helene and I always love to hear you wax - sardonic to enthusiastic.


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