Warning: Professionals May Be Stupid

Every so often, we must rely on the services of a professional. We often assume that the learned man or woman, based on education and experience, has the requisite knowledge and skills to assist us. And most of the time they do. Sweet skills matched with need make an exceedingly happy union. (Excuse me while I dab at my eye with a hanky).

But what about those times when the skill is superficial while the need is real? In other words, the professional is a stuper (short again, for stupid person). I have many doctor, lawyer, teacher and other credentialed expert examples of this in my book, but for now, I’m going to focus on the publishing industry. 

Years ago, I wrote a picture book manuscript about a fire dog who preferred eating cookies to fighting fires. Imagine my delight when I received a call from an assistant editor at Scholastic saying she was interested in my book. She – let’s call her Shawna – seemed very nice; I ignored the fact that she sounded like she was fourteen years old. “It’s like…I’m like…I’m all…Cool!” You get my drift.

We had several phone conversations. In the end, however, Shawna decided to pass on my book. That was okay by me. I forgot about it…until I received a letter from Shawna. In the book, my trusty fire dog extinguished a fire. Did you catch that word? The dog extinguished a fire. In the letter from Shawna, she confirmed, “although I liked the way the dog distinguished the fire, I will have to pass on this book.” Did you see that, sharp- eyed readers? Cuz Shawna sure didn’t. Can fires be distinguished? I suppose if the fire is noticeably different from other fires or is somehow shown greater respect by fire officers and dogs, it could be labeled as distinguished. Right? Plug your ears! I feel a scream comin’ on!

What made this error titanically wrong was that this so called editor worked in an industry where words serve as the foundation. Yet she carelessly used a faulty one in a letter that consisted of just a few sentences. Her wrong word usage sent me into a 78 minute telephone tirade to every writer I knew. They, of course, had their own stupid editor stories to share. 

Granted, this was hardly a serious faux-pas, but oh-so-annoying. As a writer, I try my very best when it comes to proper grammar and word usage. I expect those in the publishing industry whose job it is to deal with words to do the same. 

Don’t you think you should give whatever job you have your best? From any type of professional, anything less than complete responsibility is a form of misuse. Gaining a good position should not lead to sudden mental incapacity. In fact, the opposite should be true. Deep satisfaction arises when any job is well executed. Perhaps Shawna would have graduated past the age of 14 had she made a greater effort.

When annoying stupidity does occur, what’s a good way to immediately diffuse it?

I’ll share this answer next time, as well as the answer to this one: Does Williams-Sonoma sell chipped plates?

Keep thinking!




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