Wednesday, August 01, 2007


There's this theory I've been working on while I should have been doing something important. My tentative title for this theory is the 'People Reclaim Their IQs For Spare Parts When Inferior To A Separate Thinker In A Problem-Solving Situation' Theory, or PRTIQFSPWITASTIAPSST for short. I'll, of course, cite an example. Necessary to this example are four facts, shown here:

The aisle is two feet wide.
The cart is 22 inches wide.
The lavatory is in the back of the aircraft.
No two fermions may occupy the same quantum state simultaneously, according to the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

Now, if you start a drink service from the front of the aircraft and are three-quarters done, that puts you about three rows away from the lav. And if someone in the front row has to use the lav, they trundle down the aisle and end up right behind you, looking these four facts directly in the eye. The usual solution to this dilemma is to sit them in a nearby empty seat and roll back past them, making the plane one big sliding-tile puzzle. But most of the time, the seats are all full, and so this person is back to the four facts, all of which combine to form an inescapable truth... short of becoming light or radiation, there is no way for this person to get to the lavatory. But this realization has never stopped anyone from tapping me on the shoulder and politely saying, "Um, is there... any way to, uh..." while waving past me at the lav. At first I thought these people were jettisoning their IQs entirely, but then remembering my law of conservation of energy, I realized that this could not be true... the IQ had to be going somewhere. Turns out they were just disassembling it into pieces so small that it could no longer be used.
Think about it. If you got the idea to build a giant wooden banana split in the park at the center of town, and got about halfway through it before you noticed that someone else had just finished a wooden banana split in the park, and it was actually a lot better built, would you finish yours? Nope. You'd tear it back down into reusable components in case you got the idea to build something else, like maybe a big wooden goldfish saddle. So my theory posits that, when faced with a difficult problem-solving situation and a separate problem-solver with an established talent for solving said problem, people tend to raze their own capability for thought. For example, if a person who knows nothing about cars hired a mechanic to look under their hood, they wouldn't try to tell him where the reverse ancillary flow inhibitor valve is... they'd just reboot their brain and let him think. This process doesn't render one completely incapable of thought, but it does limit the process severely, and appears to have a cumulative effect.
It's interesting to note that, even when a brain is crumbled into small chunks, it can still serve as a rudimentary filter. The caveman part of your brain that makes you run from danger will also act to keep you from embarrassing yourself. It sees its high-falutin' upstairs neighbors greet the equation ME + SOLID OBJECT = CLEAR PATH with a vigorous and dizzy nod, and throws a quick check to the speech center to keep it from actually completing a question out loud like, "Is it possible for me to get to the lav even though there's an object between here and there that's the exact width of the aisle?" Hence all the waving and ellipses that always happen.
But even though we now know there's a thought process (or, I guess, just a process) behind this question they always ask, it's still a dumb question. It's not even actually a question. It's a half-question. It's a dumb half-question. And I, for one, never answer it. I just step smoothly aside and let them determine for themselves if they can pass through a solid object. This saves me having to think of something sarcastic to say, and also saves me from embarrassing myself in front of anyone who happens to be able to transduce into lightning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you ever considered a regular newspaper column or perhaps a book of collected observations?

you make our day!

6:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home