Archive for February, 2008

Stupid Little Habits

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Some of us have developed the habit of completing another’s thought during a conversation by finishing the sentence for him/her. Although this is not a telltale sign of stupidity, it is an indicator of impatience and an attempt to rush the speaker along.

I’d like to share this letter with readers:

Dear Keli,

I am thirty-four years old and consider myself intelligent and a good listener. But I have a quirk that I think makes me look like a stuper. I have a tendency to finish other people’s sentences for them. I never noticed it until I sat in the doctor’s office. I finished a couple of Dr. M’s sentences for him, and he nearly had a fit. You see, I’d finished them all wrong. He practically blew up. He told me to stop it, or he would stop treating me.

That was two days ago. I haven’t spoken a word out loud since. I’m scared that I will try to finish other people’s sentences. This problem is not big enough to see a shrink about (at least I hope not). What should I do?

Somewhat Out-of Control in Leawood, Kansas

First of all, for new readers, I’d like to point out that stuper is short for an obviously stupid person. Here is my response:

Dear Somewhat:

I have good news: finishing other’s sentences is a simple habit, easy to break, and not stupidity. I’ve done it myself in the past, thinking it demonstrated understanding and support of the speaker. Not necessarily so. It can be annoying when the sentence is completed wrong.

If you should find yourself about to finish a sentence for another, start counting instead. Not out loud, but silently. Count to six, making sure you allow the speaker to continue. Holding your breath during the count is not necessary.

You may believe that finishing another’s sentence shows interest in what some one is saying. And you may wonder, how else can I show this? Come up with comments or questions to ask once the talk is done. Also, you may knit your brows during the conversation to indicate presence of thought; smile, nod, or frown at appropriate times to demonstrate active listening skills. These simple techniques will keep conversations flowing.

Take time to think.


Stupidity Happens

Monday, February 4th, 2008

What’s this world coming to? Are the stupers (short again for uncontainable stupid persons) finally taking over, like the monkeys did in Planet of the Apes? For a few minutes yesterday, I was certain stupidity had staged a successful coup.

I’d ventured out of my home and into the supermarket, figuring that the rain and the Superbowl, would enable shopping to be stuper free. I was wrong.

My mission was to quickly buy four, 2.5-gallon size, water bottles. A simple enough task. The store had only four such bottles left. I heaved the rather bulky containers into my shopping cart. My sister then telephoned me, and I paused to chat.

As the conversation continued, I parked my cart at the foot of the water bottle aisle. I then walked over to take out some money from the nearby ATM, mere steps away. Alas, I’d neglected to place a lock on the cart or load it with heavy metal objects. Maybe I should have tied a chain around one wheel and secured the other end to my ankle. Go to fullsize image

While at the ATM and on the phone, I glanced over my shoulder at my cart and noticed it had vanished. Barely a minute had passed. Irritated (these were the last four bottles), I ended the call and left the machine. What I encountered was a trail of water bottles, haphazardly running along one side of the aisle. The very four bottles that had formerly been sitting in my cart.

A middle-aged woman pushing a cart approached me.

“Are you looking for the cart with the water bottles? Those four girls got rid of the bottles and took off with it,” she pointed to the end of the aisle.

I saw four indolent, scantily clad creatures in their late teens or so, strolling, just turning around the corner. I mention their clothing or lack thereof, because the temperature hovered around 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps the lack of warm attire had frozen what few remaining brain cells they had. Rather than walk fifteen feet to the cart corral, they’d confiscated one already in use.

Since I am a specialist in the psychology of stupidity, I took the cart kidnapping in stride. I only Go to fullsize imagebriefly considered attaching dynamite to the handle of their cart to make a statement about the hijacking. But this tale gets worse for me before it gets better.

I suddenly had a terrible realization: I’d never removed the cash I’d requested from the ATM. Irritation while talking on the cell phone and pushing buttons on the machine had distracted me to the tune of sixty dollars. I admit to hypocrisy in a weak moment, dear readers. Multi-tasking does not work when trying to have a meaningful conversation on the cell phone.

I raced back to the ATM. No $ in sight. I noticed a checker kept her head perpetually turned toward the machine. She knew something. I approached her.

“I don’t suppose some one turned in sixty dollars to you, found at the ATM?”

The checker nodded and barely opened the cash drawer. “Yes, some one did turn it in. She thought it was a malfunctioning machine. Here you go.”

It was a malfunction…in my head. Had I been paying proper attention, I would have maintained awareness. Instead, I focused on stupidity and became an amnesiac, leaving my money behind.

The fact that a person actually turned in the money instead of stuffing it in her wallet really made my day. And I was very grateful. It made the stupers look very small indeed. Ever since the ATM mishap, I’ve been exceptionally prudent in fostering present moment awareness so that I may continue to maintain my sanity.

Great minds think.