Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is It Stupid in Here, Or Is It Just Me?

Yes, I know it’s been hot, not just here, but all over the United States. So, indeed, it is hot in here and it’s not just me.

But I’m asking about ‘stupid’, not ‘hot’.

As in, how is it possible that a clerk at the deli counter of a prominent food-selling establishment doesn’t know what “three-quarters of a pound” means. You think I’m joking, or judging harshly, but I recently was waited on by a perfectly nice young woman who ably served up a pound of sliced turkey. She then politely asked if there was anything else she could get for me. “I’d like three-quarters of a pound of the roast beef,” I answered.

She hesitated. Just a touch, but I caught it. I thought maybe she hadn’t heard me, but she didn’t ask me to repeat it, she just reached her vinyl-gloved hand into the deli case and pulled out a wad of sliced beef. “Plunk!” it said as it hit the scale, weighing in at .38 lbs.

“How’s that?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, “three-quarters of a pound,” now convinced she had indeed not heard me the first time.

Then it came: “Oh, that’s more than a pound, right?”  Ruh-roh.  Now I get an Academy Award nomination for being kind and supportive and helpful, when I wanted to do a Johnny Carson spit take and ask her how she could have possibly graduated high school without knowing how much three-quarters of a pound is.

“It’s actually less than a pound. Your scale will read ‘point seven five’,” I told her.  “Okay, whatever,” she answered, and ultimately came up with the meat.

“Whatever?” My confidence in our education system dropped several points in that exchange.

The very next day I noticed on my Visa bill that a subscription I’ve carried for years suddenly went from $32 a month to $42 a month. Since my public school education took place in the 1960s, I saw right away that that was approximately a 30% jump. I called their customer service line to find out why.

The lad Michael, clearly unhappy with his career choice, sullenly told me that it was because my ‘special offer rate’ had expired. I informed him that I had been a subscriber for over 30 years, and didn’t have a special offer rate. I could bore you with the repetition of our respective positions which went on for a while, but I’ll spare you.

Finally, I believe I outwitted Michael, who, to be fair, seemed to be unarmed in a battle of wits. I asked him if there were any special offer rates currently in effect. “I’ll check,” he offered.

“Yes, I can give it to you for $3.77 a week, which would be $16.34 a month.” Again, thanks to the educational standards of the ’60s, I could see that this was preferable to spending $42 a month. “Sold,” I said.

And my third and final example (due only to the space limitations of this column) of the decline of intelligence and common sense in our civilization comes all the way from London.  According to an article in the Associated Press, a man there started a major fire in his apartment by attempting to dry two pairs of boxers and socks in his microwave. The appliance was destroyed, and the apartment suffered serious smoke damage.

Is this so hard a concept? Food in microwave, clothes in dryer.

In London, I guess it’s hot and stupid.


  1. Oh, it is, as my younger friends will tell you, all stupid up in here (Mpls) as well. Not too long ago, my friend Mary actually left a shop without the four sugar cookies she wanted because, while they were marked something like 75 cents apiece, the clerk insisted that the total due was almost $5. She tried to get the girl to do the math in her head, rather than rely upon the cash register, but the girl couldn't do it.

    Unbelievably, Mary was forced to leave the store without her cookies.

    If you knew Mary, you'd know what dire straits we've come to when she leaves a cookie behind...

    Nice post. Really nice post. I've added you to my blog roll.


  2. Priceless! There is never more gridlock than at a fast food place when the computers go out and people have to actually count your change. Or, God forbid, ring in your fried without the little french fry icon! Oh, its so good to be old! If you would add a tweet button (unless I missed it) I'd love to share your thoughts with my tweeps. Meg

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