The Ecphorizer

Mobilizing to Halt the Continuation of Dumb Stuff
Lisa Barrigan Basker

Issue #10 (June 1982)

To the barricades, Mensans!

It is a testament to the intellect of Mensans that they view this imperfect world with, for the most part, humor and tolerance. The foibles of personkind, including sometimes our own 2%, are dealt with kindly by most of us, I think.

[quoteright]However, it occurs to me that

...some things are just so dumb...

some things are just so dumb, we should focus our attention on them and try to bring about intelligent changes. I call upon all of you to record some of your day to day observations of humanity at work and play and share your findings of specific instances. Then perhaps we can formulate a plan of countering with intelligent suggestions to the unthinking.

My favorite teeth-grinder is this: When you, as a customer in a bakery or doughnut shop, make a selection of cookies, pastries, rolls, or such, the clerk proceeds to pick up each item very daintily, with a square of waxed paper, so that the items will not be touched with germ-laden fingers. The germs, of course will be transferred to the paper. So, after filling the bag or box with your choice of goodies, what does she do? Tops them off with the square of paper, germs and all! On top of your cookies, or whatever.

Another gem: Almost everyone who steers his/her car into the designated left-turn lane at an intersection sits there waiting for the green arrow with the car's turn signal flashing. Why? Isn't that redundancy at its best, or worst?

There are countless others that are cliches of unthinking behavior. Some are more forgivable because they belong in the field of forgetfulness. Such as driving for blocks or miles with the turn signal on, but never turning. This causes much stress on those behind you, and creates a lot of nervous uncertainty.

Some behavior patterns are symptomatic of other, deeper meanings. For example, I notice that people read signs when they are driving. Is this a survival mechanism? They see street name signs, stop signs, store names, and so on. But indoors, they are blind. Local libraries currently have a supply of tax forms. A sign with six-inch or larger lettering faces the patrons as they enter. "State and Federal Tax Forms Here," it says, with a big arrow pointing to the table or counter. Ninety-nine out of 100 patrons will, however, wait patiently at the desk until a librarian is free, and then ask, "Do you have any tax forms?" Likewise for restrooms, the fiction books, new books, and the reference desk. Does this mean that whenever possible, people want human contact? Do they not trust their own judgment, or the written word? Are they so insecure they must have constant reassurance from an authority figure?

Why do people leave home or office without change? Years of experience dealing with the nickel and dime and quarter facts of life relative to phone booths, newspaper racks, busses, duplicating machines, vending machines, etc. ad infinitum teaches them nothing. Why?

The greatest cliche of all - that of trying to figure out what each individual owes, including tax and tip, when a luncheon or dinner check includes the whole party, has been met head-on by our local Dine-out SIG participants. Slips are passed out to each diner by the SIG leader to record what (and the price of everything) each consumes. A pocket calculator is always present, and the entire hassle is resolved efficiently and intelligently.

Because of space limitations I will not list more detailed observations of dumb stuff. You are all aware that supermarket checkout lines, theatres, traffic and any number of other public places provide a treasure trove for all of us who are researching such behavioral aberration, or norm, depending on your degree of tolerance.

It is my hope you will report, in the pages of THE ECPHORIZER, not only your observations with comments, but also that we can unite, as an alert and informed group, to counter the proliferation of all such dumb stuff. 

She has recovered from her blighted affair with Mburg's Willie, although her undercover work with Vernalee continues.  See the three articles of this romance here, here, and here.

More Articles by Lisa Barrigan Basker

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