Friday, December 23, 2011

Cliché of the Day: You Get What You Pay For

Have you ever heard someone say "you get what you pay for"?  I may be naive, but for the most part when I pay for something... I do actually get something in return.  Thus if I paid for it, I would get it - and this phrase is essentially worthless.

I understand what people are getting at.  They are suggesting that if you spend a few bucks more, you will probably get a much better product, but does that really need explaining?  You mean to tell me if you spend MORE you get MORE?  You are also telling me if I buy the cheapest possible version of a product I will get the cheapest possible version?  Alert the media!

The whole idea of a tired cliché such as "you get what you pay for" is that it is used so often people fail to even take the time to really discern what the words actually mean.  Taken at face value it is mere common sense... you may as well hear people running around yelling "gravity exists" or "rain is wet". 

Of course when you start debating the merits of a cliché  there is always that one guy who has to proclaim "there is an exception to every rule".  I will admit there is an exception to "you get what you pay for" because in some cases you might actually get something for nothing, and therefore you actually got much more than you paid for.  In other cases you might pay for something and never actually get it... as is the case if you sent a check to a Nigerian Prince who promised you untold riches for a small fee to cover the import taxes.

However for the most part, the "exception to every rule"  cliché is no better than the "you get what you pay for"  cliché.  Frankly, there is an exception to the exception to every rule, which creates a double exception.  Does that mean they cancel each other out and create a positive exception?  What exactly is the opposite of exception in the first place.... is that an inception?  I suppose it could be a parcel (integral part) but that isn't nearly as interesting.

So let's discuss what is a rule and what isn't.  In the simplest example possible, we can look at the rule that states during a baseball game if the runner is tagged with the ball before they reach the base then they are out.  Is there really an exception to that rule?  Maybe some baseball expert will correct me, but I surely can't think of one.  If the defensive player doesn't have the ball or doesn't make the tag obviously it won't be an out, but that isn't the question being posed here.  Of course this is where someone will nitpick and suggest that if the umpire doesn't see the action properly they could make the wrong call and in that case the runner might be safe by mistake... but that is a stretch.  First of all what the umpire sees is a separate issue and we are merely focusing upon what the rule says, so for the sake of discussion we must admit the rule has no exception.  The rule itself is clear - the runner is out if the proper conditions are met, but there is no exception to that rule and allows the runner to be safe if some other condition is met.

Then again if there is an exception to it, is it really a rule or more of a suggestion?  Is a rule a fact, or just a general guideline?  It seems a rule should be clearly defined and not be open to interpretation... so then we start wondering who is doing the interpreting.  Clearly we need an expert opinion and we can't just take the word of anyone walking down the street... because most people offer their opinions for free and we all  know you get what you pay for.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Silver Briefcase

For some reason I've always wanted to own a briefcase.  Not just any briefcase mind you, but one of those silver metal briefcases used in countless TV shows and movies.  It was often seen holding piles of cash (used for ransoms, bribes, or black market arms deals), various forms of illegal drugs, or in some cases a bomb with a visual countdown timer comprised of large red digits.

This all reminds me of something I've noticed about these briefcases though.  Did you ever notice when the "bad guys" passed a load of cash or drugs they always sent the case along with?  I guess when you are exchanging a few hundred grand perhaps it doesn't matter that you are giving up a $400 briefcase, but what if the drug dealer had a sentimental attachment to the case?  Can they just dump the cash or the drugs into a brown paper sack and send them on their way? Would they feel shortchanged if they gave up their nice shiny briefcase but in return they were given a hello kitty messenger bag?  What are the rules for bag exchanges during drug deals... this is information I just can't figure out via Wikipedia.

Also, why don't drug dealers ever use cheap duffel bags?  I have to tell you if I know I'm going to walk away from a deal with either a pile of cocaine or a pile of cash... I'm thinking I would rather have it in a backpack or something.  Because if a cop sees a guy walking down the street with a metal briefcase he might start asking questions.  On the other hand, if a cop sees someone walking around with a backpack... well that is just another guy with a backpack.  He blends in - that is the entire point right?

Ok so clearly I'm never going to actually own a silver metal briefcase, because I don't wish to be confused with a drug dealer and I don't want to deal with the hassles of the TSA if I ever decide to fly somewhere.  Plus, I'm more a function over form type of guy... so I'd much rather have something with a shoulder strap and something that I can easily stow a laptop in without needing to remember a random three digit combination.

You have to admit though... walking around with a silver briefcase would probably turn some heads.  Maybe not because people think it is cool, but people wondering if they were sucked into a time vortex and arrived back in 1987... you know - back when people actually used briefcases.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Open Letter To Sears

Dear Sears Executive Management Team, Board of Directors, and any other employees who actually care:

I have a major problem with Sears, but I also have hopes and dreams that Sears can once again become a store in which customers actually seek it out rather than simply ending up there as a last resort.  Sears has so much potential, but it seems leadership lacks the ability of tapping that potential and in fact it seems they stomp it to the ground as often as possible in order to prevent customers from thinking Sears might be a great place to spend money.

Sears is simply out of touch and yet it appears the management team doesn't even realize it. Watching this sad implosion is much like watching someone walk into a glass door and hit their head.  Rather than realizing the door is closed and they can't walk right through, they just keep pounding their head against the door again and again expecting a different result.

I'm sympathetic Sears... but my sympathy is short lived to people (or businesses) which don't learn from their mistakes.

One major issue with Sears is that you are trying to be all things to all people. You sell appliances, you sell electronics, you sell home furnishings, you sell baby items, you sell clothing for the entire family, you sell lawn and garden equipment, power machinery, tools, exercise equipment, vacuum cleaners, garage door openers, pool tables, grills, tires, car batteries, jewelry, shoes, kitchen gadgets, housewares, eyeglasses, photography sessions, and much, much more.

In my local store, you just added beds which required a sizable portion of the store to be removed in order to make way for a product which most likely will not do any better than the housewares it has supplanted.  How do I know this you ask?  Well for starters, within 1000 yards of my local Sears store you can find no less than FIVE other stores that sell mattresses.  I'm not talking about furniture stores here - I'm merely talking about stores that focus on beds and beds alone.
Don't believe me?  Here is a short list of the stores I'm referring to:

Beds and Beds
Klocker's Mattress World
Beds by Design
Select Comfort Sleep Systems
Comfort King Mattress Factory

One of these stores is in the same mall as Sears, and another one is about 100 yards away just across the parking lot.

In addition to the above, there are several furniture stores close by as well.  These include HOM Furniture as well as Slumberland Furniture.  There are also other big box retailers that offer beds including Sam's Club, Menards, Macys, JCPenny, and Big Lots.  The saddest part is that I'm listing these stores from memory which suggests there are probably a few others I'm not even aware of at the moment.

How about a little market research Sears? How about instead of trying to be all things to all people you define who your target customer is and what market you are trying to enter?  How about you define who your competition really is?  Are you trying to complete with Best Buy and Home Depot, or are you trying to compete with Montgomery Ward and Woolworths?  Sadly... it appears you are trying to compete with them all and you failed to get the memo that a few of them no longer exist.

Find something you do well, and stick with it. Even Walmart doesn't sell everything (you will notice they don't have a stellar tool selection, and they tend to shy away from most major appliances aside from the occasional dorm sized fridge or chest freezer). The fact is, Sears still has a reputation built around brands like Craftsman and Kenmore, so why is it so hard to focus on what people actually want?

Most people don't go to Sears to buy clothing... they go to Sears to buy something else and just happened to find a pair of jeans on the way out.  People also aren't looking for fine jewelry or perfume at Sears, nor do they want to buy a mattress from a store that stocks string trimmers two aisles away nor do they want to be assisted from a guy who was selling shoes ten minutes ago, and who will probably be talking to someone about a cordless drill an hour later. 

The average Sears store is a relic, and sadly is probably twice the size it would need to be.  Many are located in malls which are underperforming, and those that are truly standalone stores just aren't destinations any longer.  What Sears should do is focus upon appliances (both large and small if you must), lawn and garden, and tools.  Drop "the softer side of Sears" because it isn't working.  Kick the mattresses and the shoes to the curb, remove the glass cases full of gold plated Timex watches, and let someone else take the cheesy family photos and sell bargain eyeglasses to the kids.

It is time to understand that Sears hasn't been relevant for 20 years.  It is time to acknowledge your idea of what is trendy or what is hip really isn't.  Nobody wants to spend a premium for something that has Ty Pennington's name on it nor do people want the Kardashian name printed on the front of their shirt.  The average person who shops at Sears is not a designer nor a fan of People magazine... they don't care about the people you seem to think they care about.  For every piece of Kardashian clothing you sell, someone else is shaking their heads as they turn around and head towards Macys or Kohls. 

It is probably also worth noting that nobody under the age of 40 even knows who Jaclyn Smith is, so while your competition is snapping up celebrity names like Martha Stewart, Sean Comes, and Gwen Stefani, you are still trying to convince the world that trendy clothing should somehow be synonymous with a former 70s television star.  If that isn't a prime example of how Sears is no longer relevant I'm not sure what is.

Finally, when you start acknowledging that you can't be the best at everything and that you can't be all things to all people, perhaps you will also acknowledge that when someone else offers a better product, it is probably a good idea to sell it rather than try to make it.  Sorry, but slapping the Craftsman or Kenmore name on an otherwise inferior product is no way to build brand loyalty.  In fact it has the opposite effect.

This is why so many other premium brands restrict where the brand can be used. Audi doesn't put their logo on a Volkswagen.  Banana Republic doesn't stock Old Navy sweatshirts in their stores.  DeWalt has distanced themselves from Black & Decker.  Ralph Lauren sells his lower priced items under the Chaps brand.

Kenmore and Craftsman should be premium brands.  They should not be diluted to the point where they can be tossed on grill accessories or cheap garage cabinetry made out of MDF, or cheap imported tools.  Extending the brand does not necessarily improve the brand, and until you realize that you will continue to lose millions of dollars each and every quarter.  Or, as is the case with your most recent quarter... you will lose HUNDREDS of millions of dollars.  I won't claim to be an economist or long-term business strategist, but I somehow don't feel that business model is sustainable.

Oh and by the way... the 1980s called and asked if they could have their Sears logo back. This is the modern world, and it requires a modern look.  Hire a new marketing firm and step one should be a logo redesign.  Retro styling would serve it well, and a shift to "Sears and Roebuck" and or a shift straight to the "Roebuck" name with a premium twist might serve you well.  Sadly, taking your company backwards 100 years would actually result in modernizing the entire concept.  However please don't insult your customers by slapping up a new sign and pretending everything has changed.  You need to start from the ground up.  Modernize the stores, improve the customer experience, remove the high pressure sale tactics that make customers feel like they are walking the Midway at a carnival, focus on what you can do well, and maybe you will see your beloved customers return.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Worth a Thousand Words

A few years ago when I became a father, I received a gift of a metal picture frame that says "Dad" on the bottom.  Inside the frame is a photograph of me holding my infant daughter while she sleeps.  It is a nice photo, and I understand the meaning behind it, but there is some confusion at work here.

The thing is, these types of picture frames always bother me because of the whole built-in purpose.  Since the frame says "Dad" I can't exactly just put a newer photo of my daughter in it without me being in the photo... because that would be odd.  Also, shouldn't the photo really be a photo of my dad rather than a picture of me as a dad?  Would it be weird to have a photo of me alone in it?  I mean I'm the dad... so isn't that what the frame is for?

If I had a frame that said daughter, I wouldn't expect me to be in the photo, but I would expect it to be a photo of my daughter.  Same is true if the frame said "Best Friend"... that wouldn't be a photo of me, but rather a photo of a best friend right?  Of course if the frame said "Best Friends" then I would expect to see an image of two people... one of which could be me.  If I saw a photo of just one person the context is just wrong and it wouldn't make sense unless that person happened to suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder.

So what about those frames that say "I Love You" on the bottom.  I would seem rather conceited if I put a photo of myself in one of those frames wouldn't I?  Even if I was in the photo with someone else it still would border on being a bit too vain.  So in that case I suspect it would be best to insert a photo of a loved one that I actually did love.

It gets even more confusing when the frame has a name on it.  So if I had a frame that said "Tom" on the bottom, I assume that means I would have a photo of Tom in the frame.  Of course this means I would need to know a Tom, but I suppose if worse came to worse I could just print out an image of that MySpace guy.

So if a picture frame with a name on it is designed to have a photo of that person in it, it seems that any frame that says "Dad" should have a picture of Dad in it... but not necessarily me, but rather it seems to make more sense to have a photo of my dad - or I should just put in a photo of me and then give the frame to my daughter.  She is only 2 1/2 years old... so I'm guessing she probably wouldn't put nearly as much thought into this as I do... so that would probably work.

On second thought... maybe the picture frame companies need to start including directions on these things to make it easier.  They do of course give you stock images in the frames most of the time (see photo above), but even those are confusing because in some dad frames it just shows one guy while in others it shows a man and child.  I even saw one that had two girls in it which is even more confusing, and one had a girl with a dog which suggests either they are being very liberal with the meaning of the term "dad" or they are from the deep South where that type of thing is considered normal.

I suppose I could be the only person on the planet who has ever given this subject much thought, but hey... if we allow people to just start putting random photos in random frames with no structure behind it before you know it the poles of the Earth could reverse, dogs will be sleeping with cats, and we might actually see a Republican say something positive about President Obama.

Yea I know - it will never happen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Repairing a Samsung LCD TV With Clicking Relays (LNT4661F)

This is a write-up on how to repair a Samsung TV that experiences problems powering up.  The most common symptoms of this failure include the sound of clicking relays when the TV is powered up, and the red LED indicator on the front of the TV may flash on and off.

Typically after the relays click a few times, the TV will eventually come on.  However in time the relays will need to click on and off more and more times before the TV will come on... and eventually the TV will likely just cycle the relays over and over and it will never come on.

If you just want the instructions on how to do this repair, skip to step 1 below.  If you want my personal saga explaining why I decided to perform this repair myself... read on.

In my case, I have experienced this failure on two separate occasions.  I originally bought this TV back in 2008, and sometime within the first year I began to hear the dreaded clicking relays suggesting there was a problem.  About a week after this started I was watching TV one evening and all of the sudden it sounded like a firecracker went off inside of the TV.  From experience I knew this meant a capacitor most likely blew up... however since the TV was still under warranty I wasn't about to crack it open to investigate.

I placed a call to Samsung and started the saga of getting the TV repaired.  Long story short the process involved at least half a dozen calls, several weeks of waiting for parts and a technician, and having to take a day off of work to be around when the service tech actually showed up.  Did I mention that the TV failed about a week before the Superbowl and there was no way to get it fixed before the game?  Yea... perfect timing.

Eventually the technician showed up and as soon as he opened the back of the TV and removed the shield from the circuit board it was very obvious which capacitors had blown.  The technician removed and replaced the power supply board with an updated version, and then closed the TV up at which time we tested it and verified it was working as good as new.

That was early 2009... and up until a few weeks ago the TV worked fine.  However around two weeks ago I noticed when the TV was powered up the red LED on the front seemed to blink several times before it would power up.  Then a few days after that, the dreaded clicking relays started.  As the days progressed it took longer and longer for the TV to power up and it became obvious it was only days away from another total failure.

I did a bit of research and discovered I wasn't alone.  In fact many users of this particular model of television (the Samsung LNT4661F 46 inch LCD HDTV) had experienced the same symptoms, and it all boiled down to bad capacitors.  It seemed there were a few ways to fix it... the easiest of which is to simply replace the power supply board.  However with a little bit of electronics knowledge and some replacement capacitors... it is much less expensive to simply replace the bad capacitors rather than bearing the expense of the entire circuit board.

Therefore in order to verify the issue I removed the back of the TV along with the metal shielding that covers the power supply board and with a little inspection it was very obvious which capacitors were failing.  As you can see from the image below, two of the capacitors show signs of failure and are bulging.  One of them was even showing a crack on the top which means it was probably days before a total failure.

Reading the specs from the side of the capacitors showed that they were 10V caps rated at 2200uF and had a max operating temperature specification of 105°C.  In my case it was only these two capacitors that were failing, however others have reported that the 1000uF capacitors directly beside the 2200uF caps had also failed.

In any case, now that I knew what the source of the issue was, I decided it was time to order some replacements.  However based upon markings on the board as well as information I had found online, it seems 10V capacitors are simply too small which is what contributed to the premature failure.  It appears this particular circuit was designed for 12V capacitors yet Samsung decided to use 10V caps instead.  It stands to reason why they wouldn't last.  Therefore, in order to prevent this from happening again I opted to replace the caps with 16V capacitors, but others have used 24V or even 50V replacements... it is just a matter of what is available.  A higher voltage capacitor doesn't mean it will run at a higher voltage... merely that it is capable of handling that voltage.  In this case, having a little extra buffer was a good thing as the caps would be running at a voltage well under spec.

It just so happens a friend of mine was in the process ordering some parts for himself, so he just added a few of the capacitors to his order and they were on the way.  In the meantime, it was time to get started removing the old capacitors and prepping the board for the replacements.

Step 1: Remove the power supply board.  Ok so technically step 1 would be remove the back of the TV and then remove the shield covering the board itself... but if you can't figure that part out on your own you probably shouldn't even attempt to replace the capacitors yourself.  

To remove the board, you will want to disconnect all of the various connectors that run into the board and then remove the six screws that hold the board down to the mounting plate / chassis.  It isn't a bad idea to take a photo to ensure you get all of the connectors in the right places upon re-installation (or just use my photo as a guide).  The capacitors being replaced are shown at the upper right hand corner of this board.

Step 2:  Desolder the old capacitors.  In my case, this involved CM852 and CM853.  You can see from the image below what the top of the board looks like after the capacitors have been removed.  I won't go into great detail here about how to actually desolder these since it is assumed if you are attempting this you have some basic knowledge on how to use a soldering iron, but it is helpful to have some desoldering braid and/or a solder sucker (desoldering pump) to remove the old solder as you heat up the leads.  

And this is what the bottom of the board looks like after the capacitors have been removed.  Note that there are polarity markings on both sides of the board.  Try not to apply too much heat to the board as you don't want to inadvertently harm the solder traces on the board.

Step 3:  Paying attention to the polarity of the capacitors (the shaded area of the board corresponds to the negative lead of the capacitor), insert the leads of the replacement capacitors through the holes in the circuit board and bend them outward to hold the capacitors tight against the board.  Apply heat to each lead and solder them in place.

Step 4:  Using a side cutters, trim the leads of the capacitors.  Some may prefer to cut the leads prior to soldering, but I prefer to do so after they are soldered in place just in case I need to make any adjustments.  After trimming, verify the solder joints are intact and are solid.  The image below shows the end result from the bottom of the board.

And this is what the new capacitors look like from the top of the board.  The new caps were slightly larger than the originals, but they fit just fine.

Here is another side angle showing the new capacitors in place.  Several of the other original caps (the lighter blue caps in the image) may also need to be replaced if they show signs of failure, but in my case they all appear ok.

Step 5:  Reinstall the power supply board back into the TV chassis.  Tighten all six mounting screws, and ensure all of the various connectors are reconnected properly.  Once everything looks ok, reinstall the metal shield that covers the power supply board as shown in the image below.

If there is any doubt about the location of the various connectors... simply refer to the image in step 1 above.  However aside from forgetting to actually install one, it is nearly impossible to do  this step incorrectly since aside from the two in the lower left corner, all of the connectors are unique.

Step 6:  Reattach the back of the TV, install the stand and/or wall mount cover plate... connect the TV to a video source, plug it in, power it up and enjoy!

Step-Brothers Anyone?

The replacement capacitors cost under a buck each plus a few bucks for shipping, so the end result was a repair for around $5.  I had the soldering iron, soldering braid, and solder on hand already so there was no additional cost there.  Total time from start to finish (not counting the time I was awaiting parts delivery) was approximately 20 minutes.

Considering the cost for a technician to come out and replace the board could easily top $300... I think this repair is more than worth it.  With a little luck the third time will be a charm so hopefully I won't need to do this again!

If you found this post helpful, or if you have any questions about the process, please leave a comment and let me know.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Voice.... That Carries

Recently I was speaking with a group of co-workers and the topic of "noisy people" came up.  Anyone who has ever worked in an office environment with more than three people probably understands there is always that one person who is much louder than everyone else, and where I work (due to the number of people who share the space) we have more than a handful.

There are quite a few different types of noisy people ranging from the person who has no concept of their own volume when speaking a phone, to the type of person who feels a laugh needs to be at least 90 dB to be effective, to the type of person who likes to watch ESPN clips on their computer with the volume cranked.  My personal favorite however is the person who wears headphones while listening to music and doesn't realize that when they decide to talk they are now about three times louder than they need to be.  That's always a crowd pleaser especially when they decide to drop an f-bomb in a professional environment (and even worse is when you sit near them and are on a conference call with a sensitive mic).

The thing is, in this particular group of co-workers that I was speaking with, everyone pretty much mentioned the same person as being noisy, so it isn't like I'm the only one who has recognized it.  Actually, rather than mince words I'll just call her loud, because in essence that is what she is.  The best part is everyone knows she is loud.  She has been told she is loud.  People have been known to sneak up to her desk and turn up the volume on her phone in the hopes it might help to reduce her speaking volume (since in theory she would hear her own voice being fed back into the earpiece on her phone and adjust volume accordingly), but basically there isn't much that has worked. 

Now I don't want to make it seem like this is a huge annoyance or that it is disturbing, because for the most part it is just one of those things you deal with in life.  Some people are loud, some are quiet just as some people are friendly and some are bitter at everyone and everything around them.  Whether someone is loud or not just isn't that big of a deal because it is fairly easy to tune them out if you aren't directly engaged in a conversation with them, and frankly this particular person is friendly and outgoing and the type of person who I am happy to have as a colleague, so the fact she is a tad louder than those around her is a relatively minor point.

The interesting thing about this particular woman however is that she knows and acknowledges that she is loud and that her voice is typically at a volume level in excess of what is considered normal.  This is where I tend to hear the oh-so-common excuse when the conversation of loud people comes up where she openly stated she is loud because she has "one of those voices that carry so well".  Really?  You just magically have a voice that carries better than the voices of other human beings?  I find that interesting.

There is a lot of science behind sound and I don't want to get off on a tangent here, but basically a sound wave is comprised of characteristics such as the frequency (the pitch of the sound itself), amplitude (think of that as volume), wavelength (which is inversely proportional to frequency), intensity, and pressure.  Now although it is true that different frequencies of sound are detected by the human ear at various volume levels (the human ear does not have a flat spectral response), for the most part the difference between volume levels within the frequency range of human speech is not all that significant.

This is a long way of saying that person A's voice does not differ dramatically from person B's voice when looked at in terms of a sound wave.  There is no physics magic that allow the sound waves of one person to travel farther than the other given the same volume level and (approximate) frequency, and for all intents and purposes a voice is a voice in terms of how far it can go.  There may be differences on who can hear that voice of course, but as a whole that isn't really an issue when speaking about a group who is all listening to the same person unless they were all hard of hearing or if they all had better-than-average hearing (which I somehow doubt is the case in my example).

So when someone says they have a voice that travels so well or a voice that carries so well... they are basically just repeating something they heard once with no understanding of how silly they actually sound (no pun intended).  The fact is, for all intents and purposes if someone has a voice that "carries well" it is likely due to the fact that they talk louder than everyone around them.  Thus a distance X, person A with amplitude Y they will obviously be heard better than person B with amplitude Z assuming a comparable frequency and Y being greater than Z.

So yea... sometimes a loud person is just a loud person, and an excuse is just an excuse.  Chances are if someone has a voice that carries better than those around them... it has less to do with physics and a whole lot more to do with them just being loud (and in some cases annoying as well).

The more you know.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Fail To Learn My Lesson” Person

A mechanic I know told me a story about a woman who came in to have her passenger side mirror replaced on her car. The thing was… it wasn’t the first time. This woman had the same mirror replaced four or five times on a car she had owned for only a couple of years because she would continually break it off while backing out of her garage.

Now I can accept someone breaking off a mirror… I even did something similar once myself while trying to squeeze around a car parked in the middle of the driveway. I might even be able to accept someone doing it twice when they failed to learn the lesson the first time or maybe were driving a different vehicle. However, if you break off the same mirror four or five times in a span of two years, how smart could you possibly be? How many times do you actually need to do something stupid before you stop and ask yourself how you can prevent from it happening again?

Since hearing this story I often have wondered what someone like that does for a living. What if she was a doctor or a dentist or worse – a politician. I’m not sure stupidity is isolated to only one area of the brain, so needless to say if this was my doctor I’d be finding myself a new doctor, and if this was my politician… I’d probably move to a new district as I would be embarrassed to be represented by an idiot.

I also see stupid people who get married and divorced time and time again. You see celebrities who have been married seven or eight times and they end up divorced over and over again. Don’t you think that after your fourth or fifth failed marriage you might stop to think – hey maybe this whole marriage thing isn’t for me because I clearly suck at it? Sure you can blame a few marriages on the other person, but when you are filing for your seventh divorce I think it is safe to say you haven’t learned your lesson and likely never will.

I fully realize we all do stupid things, but most of us learn from our mistakes and hopefully do our best to prevent making those same mistakes time and time again. However the more and more I look around me, the more and more stupid people I see. This is precisely why tax preparation companies are so popular during tax season, because if a person can’t manage to back out of their garage without breaking off their mirror time and time again, or if they can’t manage to have a successful marriage after six or seven attempts, they aren’t very likely to be able to fill out a tax return even if they only need the 1040EZ form.

You often hear people say that people are smart but they just do stupid things. I have to say I totally disagree with that. There was a Seinfeld episode where Jerry asked Elaine what percentage of people she thought were good looking and she answered twenty-five percent. Jerry then said “Twenty-five percent, you say? No way! It's like 4 to 6 percent. It's a twenty to one shot.

I don’t know if I would go so far as to say 4 to 6 percent is the magic number, but there is no way I would claim that more than 20% of the human race is considered smart. I’m not even going so far as to say you have to hold a PhD or understand advanced level thermodynamics or quantum theory here… I’m merely talking about the amount of people who don’t do or say stupid things on a regular basis.

I hate to sound negative, but I’d estimate 80% of our population is comprised of stupid people, which probably explains the popularity of things like the Snuggie, vaccine-causing-autism conspiracy theories, Jersey Shore, and the belief that there really is such a thing as Bigfoot.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Can’t Grasp The Concept Of Volume” Person (Volume 5)

This will likely be the last in my series of “volume related” stupid people stories although I’m sure I could easily write another dozen or so if I was up to it. This last episode is one of my personal favorites and sticks in my memory like it happened yesterday. I’ve told this story to several people over the years, and for some reason even after almost 20 years since it actually occurred, I still find it rather comical.

I was working in the back room of ShopKo stocking shelves and doing whatever it is I normally did in the course of my shift when I received a page for a delivery (yes we carried pagers… needless to say this was the 90s). I called up to the register and was told a gentleman had just purchased a swing set and needed it carried out.

Now normally we would have the person drive around back and we would load the swing set there, but that required a manager to unlock the rear door and at the time none of them were in the immediate area. Rather than chase one of them down and waste the customer’s time, I decided to just grab another fellow employee and have him help me get it loaded onto two carts.

Keep in mind the largest swing sets came in boxes that were about 10 feet long, two feet wide, and 12-18 inches tall or so. I don’t remember the weight, but we generally would not even try to handle them alone. So in this case we placed a rolling flatbed under each end and proceeded to drive it to the front of the store as if it was one of those hook and ladder (fire) trucks you see with a guy on the front and the back both steering.

When we met the customer the first question out of my mouth even before bothering to haul this thing any further was to ask him what type of vehicle he drove. He immediately understood what I was getting at once he saw the size of the box, and he told me he drove a full size van, so it would not be a problem fitting it inside. Admittedly I was very relieved to hear this, so we followed him out the door and to his van.

When I saw the van I was extremely happy. Not only was this a full size van, but it was one of those extended vans with two full doors on the back to make access extremely easy. However, as soon as he opened the doors I saw a problem. The van was full of bench seats because it wasn’t really a cargo van – it was a 14 passenger van… and the seats did not fold down nor were they removable (without tools at least). The swing set was too large to fit under the seats, so our options were somewhat limited.

No problem – the customer just told us to lay it across the top of the seats and he would haul it that way. I knew it would fit so that wasn’t the issue, but I wasn’t sure the seats would appreciate having a heavy swing set laid on top of them and even worse I knew if he had to stop suddenly this could be a huge safety issue.

Long story short the guy just didn’t care. He was willing to take the risk and I knew I wasn’t liable if anything happened, so we proceeded to lift the swing set onto the seats, slide it forward and shut the rear doors. The front of the box was right between the two head rests of the front seat so at least if he had to slam on his brakes it would crush the dash and/or windshield rather than his skull, but I still thought it was a pretty stupid idea.

However, it was about that time that I turned around and noticed a woman with what appeared to be at least seven or eight kids standing there staring at us. Apparently this woman was his wife, and these were his kids. They were shopping alone which is why they weren’t around while we were loading this whole thing.

Now keep in mind this swing set rested on top of the seats so although a kid could lay on the seat or hunch over, there was no way possible to actually sit up straight in the middle of each row, and those who did sit up straight on the sides were risking head injury each time the van would turn a corner and the swing set would inevitably slide along the top of the seats (because it goes without saying the guy wasn’t interested in fastening this thing down).

As the woman opened the side doors, these kids proceeded to pile in the van one by one… each of them bending their heads in what would appear to be a very uncomfortable position in order to fit around and under the swing set.

Now if this guy was merely driving across town this might not be such an interesting story, but after seeing his contorted kids wedge themselves around the swing set I just had to ask where they were headed. The guy told me where he lived but I wasn’t aware of the town (and have long since forgot what it was called), but I do remember him saying it was about a two hour drive.

Not only was this guy going to be driving at highway speeds with a huge cardboard encased steel projectile capable of decapitation, but he was going to do so with his tribe of children wedged and squeezed around it just for good measure… for two hours.

Without so much as a shred of concern for the comfort or safety of his family, he pulled away as I stood there with mental images of a horrific traffic accident with random children impaled upon swing set parts and a rescue worker wondering who would ever be stupid enough to load a swing set on to the tops of the seats of a fully loaded passenger van.

Once again – people are stupid, and in this case I was probably an accessory to the stupidity.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I think the flower companies decided that dandelions were a weed instead of a flower just because they can grow anywhere, they look pretty good, and they are free…just think of what that would have done to their business if they were officially called a flower.

Truth be told, if you squint just a tad when looking at a field of dandelions, can you really tell them apart from daisies?  I think not.  Plus they are self-propagating, require next to zero water, grow in even the worst possible conditions, and in a pinch you can even make wine out of them.

Of course society has taught us they are weeds, and my neighbors probably would be rather upset with me if I didn't spray for them or control them... so I guess I'm stuck.  Life is so unfair... if you're a dandelion that is.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Can’t Grasp The Concept Of Volume” Person (Volume 4)

Here we go again – another example of someone who has no grasp on the concept of volume. A liter, gallon, square foot, acre, hectare, or quart… it might as well be all the same to these idiots. I get the distinct impression these were the people who as children spent entire afternoons trying to wedge the round peg into the square hole, and never once did it occur to them that they should try something else.

Then again, if the parents realized they have a stupid kid at such an early age, maybe they just gave up and realized anything that keeps the kid occupied for an afternoon isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In any case this brings us to the case of the idiot who didn’t think they needed to see out of their passenger window or that there would ever be a need to use all the gears in their transmission. You see often times when I would attempt to load a boxed piece of furniture, the only way to fit it into the vehicle and still allow more than just the driver to fit in the vehicle (or in the case of a hatchback actually close the hatch) was to turn the box on its side and place it between the two front seats resting upon the center console.

Personally I didn’t recommend this for a few different reasons of which I will outline here:

First, the weight of some of the boxed furniture was actually quite heavy, and it could easily damage the console. Granted for the typical owner who suggested this, they probably didn’t care all that much about the console on their 1982 Honda Civic hatchback.

Second, if the driver ever had to see out the passenger side window, sometimes the box was tall enough that it made this nearly impossible… not exactly the safest plan in the book. Any attempt to explain this to the driver/owner was typically meant with the “I’m not going very far” retort, as if that really makes a significant difference.

Third, in the event of sudden acceleration, the weight of the furniture could shift backwards and crack or explode the rear window. That probably isn’t a huge issue with the massive power in a 1982 Honda Civic… but you never know.

Fourth, in the event the driver was forced to make an abrupt stop, the weight of the box would shift forward and either crash into the dash and console, or even worse smash into the shifter between the seats and knock the vehicle out of gear (or into a different gear altogether).

It is this fourth scenario that actually was fairly common, and I can recall a few such incidents where this was actually an issue. The first involved a customer who after loading the furniture realized he would only be able to use 1st, 3rd, and 5th gears of the transmission because 2nd, 4th, and Reverse couldn’t engage due to the placement of the box. Aside from the fact that his wrist and arm would need to contort to even make the most basic gear changes, and aside from the fact that he was missing several rather important gears, this particular customer didn’t really seem all that concerned and went along his way.

Another incident involved a woman which found she was unable to move her gear selector out of the park position when the box was completely in her vehicle. The only logical solution would be to open the hatch of her car and allow the box to protrude a foot or so out the back. Then you either leave the hatch open and take your chances, or you tie it down and take your chances. Depending upon weather, an open hatch isn’t always an option which leads us to our stupid incident.

This woman actually asked me to lift up on the box just long enough for her to shift the car into drive so she could get home. So here we have a situation where every time she would apply the brakes on the way home there was a good chance the car would shift into neutral, which would force her to push the box back towards the rear and/or attempt to pull the gear selector back into drive. This is also a situation where a fairly substantial amount of weight is resting on a gear selector which was never designed to hold a weight load at all.

I’d love to tell you how the story ends, but once she was in drive and on her way… frankly I just didn’t care. If she made it home in once piece with no damage to her vehicle that is great, but if I were a betting man I would guess there were a few choice words said at least once during her trip home. Once again, stupidity seemed to serve as its own punishment, and this woman will get what she deserves.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stupid People: The “Birther”

Now let me begin by making it clear this isn’t meant to take sides on a political issue, nor is this an analysis on President Obama. I could care less if someone loves the man and thinks they should carve a fifth face on Mr. Rushmore in honor of his greatness, or if someone thinks he is the worst President in history and not only should be impeached but have his Presidential portrait replaced by a picture of the output end a donkey.

My point about those who question President Obama’s citizenship or those who proclaim he wasn’t actually born in the United States (which are commonly referred to as “birthers”) are just stupid. I wish I could sugarcoat it and claim they were just uniformed or ignorant or otherwise confused, but after all that has been said on this subject, there really is no other way to describe these people other than stupid. It is not stupid to have strong political beliefs nor is it stupid to want to find clever ways of attacking your political opponents (rude and childish perhaps, but not stupid). It is also not stupid to ask questions until the answers have been provided time and time again.

However the issue with the birthers is that they are so convinced of this silly rumor that even now – well over two years since Obama has been sworn in as President – they are still running around trying to pretend he isn’t a legitimate President. They have ignored mountains of evidence, they have invented convoluted conspiracy theories, they have filed multiple lawsuits claiming Obama is not our legitimate President, and they have even gone so far as to fabricate a Kenyan birth certificate which was presented as evidence to show that Obama was not born in the US. Granted the Kenyan birth certificate was put together via photo editing software and was proven to be forgery about 15 minutes after it was released, but you still have birthers claiming it is the real thing.

In at least one case we even witnessed a member of the US military (U.S. Army Maj. Stefan Frederick) who refused orders because he believed Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. Personally I feel Mr. Frederick is merely a coward and didn’t want to have to fight in a war since he is merely a reservist, but in any case he used the birther argument to the best of his ability.

So what is it about these people that makes them so ignorant of facts? We know the Hawaiian Secretary of State and two different Hawaiian Governors have verified Obama’s birth certificate. One of the two Governors (Governor Linda Lingle) was even a Republican, and she go so sick of these idiot birthers wasting state employee time that she signed a law that state government can ignore repetitive requests for Obama's birth certificate. So basically, a new law was created due to the stupidity of a very small select group of idiots, and people sometimes wonder why we have so many laws on the books.

In any case we know the Hawaiian State Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino testified that she had seen vital records that prove Obama was born in the state. We know the Hawaiian state registrar of vital statistics verified that the Health Department holds Obama's original birth certificate. We also know that Obama’s birth announcement was printed in Honolulu’s two largest newspapers at the time of his birth, and unless Obama has figured out a way to time travel back 50 years to insert fake birth announcements, it seems unlikely that there would be more than one Barack Obama born the same day.

Of course, in the mind of a birther, the birth announcements in two newspapers aren’t good enough because for all we know, Obama’s parents has the foresight to realize he could be President one day… so they could have faked them I guess. I know this doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me here – this is how the mind of a birther works.

A copy of the official Obama birth certificate was actually released back in 2008, but even then the birthers made claims about it not being real or arguing that it didn’t include an official seal etc. Time after time after time the state of Hawaii confirmed it was real, and time after time the birthers refused to accept the facts.

So it seems the birth certificate provided and verified by the state wasn’t good enough, so they decided to change the game and claimed they needed the “long form birth certificate” to verify it exists and that it is not a forgery. So this begs the question… what exactly is a long form birth certificate? Well, put simply, a long form birth certificate would be a certified copy of the very original birth certificate rather than an electronically produced document as we commonly receive today.

So now just this week Obama decided he was tired of all the distraction so he released the actual long form birth certificate.  Personally I think it was a bad idea because it doesn't change anything, and now instead of birthers asking for the long form, now they are already starting to claim it is a fabrication which is why it took two years to produce.  Rest assured in the mind of a birther, the release of the long form birth certificate hasn't changed a thing because they continually move the goal posts time and time again.

It goes without saying that anyone who is still questioning Obama's ability to be President is obviously on the fringe of the political spectrum, and more times than not these people are from the far right (his opponents). Most would probably also consider themselves members of the Tea Party although I’m sure there are a handful from the far left too… crazies come in all shapes and sizes and are members of all political parties.

So if these birthers are still making this an issue and still trying to argue a point which fair minded Americans have long since considered settled, it actually only serves to harm Obama’s political adversaries. It puts members of the Tea Party in a difficult position when they are forced to comment on the issue, and it creates countless opportunities to make those on the right appear petty, ignorant… and dare I say it – stupid (yes I'm looking at you Donald Trump).

Granted if we had a Republican President in office under the same circumstances, I can promise you we would have more than a few birthers from the far left demanding the same thing and making the same ignorant statements. In fact, to some degree this whole debacle resembles the issue with George W. Bush’s National Guard records. President Bush would never release all his records, accusations were tossed around, idiots forged documents, and it remained in the headlines for months. To some degree I feel that President Bush used that controversy for his political advantage just as Obama uses the birth certificate issue to his advantage.

This all goes to show that stupid people do not have any loyalty to one political party and that we have more than enough to cover the entire spectrum. Unfortunately we really didn’t have a clever name for those who continually demanded President Bush’s military records most likely due to the fact that they were never well organized, but if we had… they would have been just as stupid as the birthers.

When a person refuses to accept fact, ignores common sense, believes hundreds or even thousands of people could all be in on some vast conspiracy without a single one of them coming to the surface to blow the whistle, it seems obvious to everyone that the person in question is stupid.

Stupid might not grow on trees, but it does seem to have roots, and unfortunately those roots run pretty deep for anyone who has attended a political rally and held a sign with a picture of President Obama near the words “undocumented worker”.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Can’t Grasp The Concept Of Volume” Person (Volume 3)

Note: If you haven’t read either of the first two posts on this particular subject do yourself a favor and either go back and scan them, or just skip this one altogether.

This is yet another one of my posts about stupid people and how they lack any sense of dimension or volume. These are the same types of people who put king size waterbeds in their bedrooms and only after they have assembled and filled the entire bed do they realize they can no longer close the door of the bedroom without hitting the frame of the bed.

We all know these kinds of people – you have probably seen their homes with a pool table in a room that makes it impossible to actually shoot pool. These are the types of people who tell you that their master bathroom is “literally as big as a football field”. These are the type of people who build bookcases with dimensions that cannot fit through a standard doorway and don’t realize it until they try taking it out of the room they built it in, or the type of people who buy a brand new $58,000 Ford F350 quad-cab longbed truck only to realize when they get home that it is six inches too high to fit in the garage door, and even if it did fit it would be two feet too long to fit in the garage itself.

So this leads me to the occasion where I found myself carrying a bookcase for a young college aged woman only to reach her car and realize it would actually fit… if she didn’t already have the entire vehicle packed from top to bottom with stuff. She had garbage bags full of stuff, boxes, piles of clothes, shoes, trash, what I think was an old stereo, laundry baskets, and who knows what else. I’m not exaggerating when I say that aside from the driver’s seat area, I don’t think there was more than one or two square feet of available space in that vehicle – I think the ashtray might have even been packed with junk by the looks of it.

I’m not sure if it was my standing there with my jaw hanging near my belt buckle, or her sudden acknowledgement (or embarrassment) of the situation, but she told me to leave the bookshelf there at the car and she would “rearrange” some of her stuff to make it fit. I never did go back and check on her… but something tells me she was there for at least an hour taking stuff out and playing a life size game of Tetris in an effort to find a way for all the pieces to fit back together without leaving anything behind.

So how does someone like this drive up to a store with the goal of purchasing a large bookcase and not stop for a second to wonder how it would ever actually fit into their vehicle?

All I can say is people are stupid.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Can’t Grasp The Concept Of Volume” Person (Volume 2)

I'm pretty sure you're doing it wrong.
If you read my initial post about stupid people, and the subsequent story about people who can’t grasp the concept of volume you will understand where I’m going with this. If not this will probably make as much sense as watching the Star Wars films in reverse order. In that case I’ll do you the favor of providing a brief summary similar to what they play at the beginning of the second part of a two part television show.

The premise here is I once held a job in retail where I was responsible for carrying out and loading large items for customers. This is one of those stories which I feel displays how people are stupid (queue Law and Order gavel-esque sound effect).

One day while working I received a call to assist a customer carrying out her purchase. When I arrived near the service desk I found a woman who bought a wicker loveseat for her patio and just needed help carrying it out and loading it. She even made the point to tell me that she had a full size truth to load it in, which was quite a relief considering every other piece of wicker patio furniture I ever loaded seem to go inside of a small sedan or half way into the trunk of a Ford Escort.

However, my optimism was soon eradicated when I discovered she had a brand new snap-on tonneau cover which her husband had explicitly told her was NOT to be removed or unsnapped. It seems that the cover was stretched so tight that unsnapping it was next to impossible, and if she did unsnap it she would never be able to get it snapped again without the assistance of her husband… who would obviously be displeased.

Now aside from the fact it sounded like these two needed marriage counseling, and aside from the fact I failed to see the benefit of having a cover on the bed of a truck which essentially made the bed of the truck worthless, this meant the only way for me to load this loveseat was to either place it on top of the tonneau cover (and risk either puncturing it or leaving permanent indentations from the weight) or open the tailgate of the truck and try to slide the loveseat under the cover.

Long story short, it wouldn’t fit under so we ended up laying it on the tailgate of the truck and tying it down. So here is a woman with a full size truck hauling a wicker loveseat on her tailgate with the legs hanging off the back because she couldn’t actually use the bed of the truck for hauling anything. That has to be a solid five on the stupid scale right there.

Now this particular incident might not seem too bad until you realize you have a stupid woman and a stupid husband all wrapped up in one. There is a high probability these two stupid people will eventually breed, which just exacerbates the problem of stupid people, because although I’m not an expert on the subject, I would guess having two stupid people as parents exponentially increases the risk of a person being stupid.

Seems like some type of reverse Darwinism at work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Can’t Grasp The Concept Of Volume” Person (Volume 1)

There are countless stupid people out there walking around unsupervised. They come in all shapes and sizes and from all parts of the globe, but one of my favorite examples of human stupidity comes from a job I had back in high school.

I worked for a retail store called ShopKo (think of Target but without the clever marketing campaign or the flashy logo, or think of Walmart without the automatic desire to take a shower when you are done mingling with the other shoppers ), and part of my duties of this job included carry-out for larger items. This typically included ready-to-assemble furniture, televisions, patio furniture, swing sets, or any other item which was probably too large or heavy for one person to carry, or too awkward for fit in a standard size shopping cart.

The basic idea was that I would go to the warehouse area of the store, load the item onto a cart and meet the customer at the checkout counter where they could pay for the item and I could help them load it. For the largest items sometimes this would take two or more employees, and in the case of a children’s swing set we generally would just have the customer pull around to the rear of the store where we would load it for them.

Sometimes when loading a bookshelf or computer desk, the customer would have a full size pickup truck, large SUV or maybe a car with a trailer so it wasn’t an issue. Nevertheless, inevitably in at least three or four times out of ten, we would arrive at the customer’s vehicle only to realize that it was highly unlikely the item would fit in their vehicle. Most of my stories involve hatchback automobiles because for some odd reason when someone drives a hatchback they think basic rules of volume and space don’t apply to them. In the mind of a hatchback owner, if you are determined enough and strong enough, you should be able to wedge a full size refrigerator, snowblower, or even a couch in the back end because after all… that is the benefit of owning a hatchback right?

I witnessed people with small hatchbacks purchasing the largest entertainment centers we had in stock which came in two boxes over six feet tall, three feet wide, and each weighing what had to be around 100lbs. Not only do they lack the interior cargo room to fit such an item in their vehicle, but it never even occurred to them that it might not fit at anytime during the purchase. They didn’t think about it when seeing the fully assembled item on display. They didn’t think about it when seeing the boxed item being wheeled up to the front door, and they surely didn’t think about it when getting to their vehicle and realizing their car isn’t as big as they remembered.

This is the part of the story where the customer would typically do one of three things. They would (A) either call a friend or relative to come pick up the furniture for them, they would (B) return the item for a refund (which meant I got to haul it all the way back into the warehouse), they would (C) suggest taking the item out of the box would allow it to fit (as if a six foot entertainment center is only four feet tall when you take it out of the box) or they would (D) try to convince me that it would fit if I just “loaded it right”.

Guess which option was the most common? If you guessed (D), go ahead and treat yourself to an Oreo.

Now keep in mind arguing with a customer is never a great idea, so in my case I most often chose to simply humor them. If they thought they could fit a few six foot boxes into a Geo Metro who am I to argue with them? So eventually they would figure out ways to flip seats down, remove boxes of junk from the hatchback area, slide the front seats all the way forward, try to convince me it could fit in the back seat (a six foot item generally does not fit across a car with an interior width of five feet), or when worse came to worse try to bribe me to give them some rope so they could tie it on their roof.

It goes without saying that most small cars are not meant to carry much weight on their roofs. Sure a few have roof racks, but aside from a few suitcases or bikes, they really aren’t intended for heavy weight loads, and because of that I would always tell the customer that I would help them get it on the roof, but I could not be held responsible for any damage to their vehicle. I also reminded them they would need to tie the items down and for those without roof racks that could mean going through the windows – which then would mean they not only could not roll the windows up all the way, but they might have to play “Dukes of Hazzard” in order to get in to the driver’s seat.

Keep in mind stupid people rarely think ahead, so telling them about possible roof damage and explaining the need to tie down their cargo served as a trigger which suddenly made them realize it might not be such a great idea.

More times than not however, I managed to get most of the item into the vehicle although the trunk or hatchback would almost never close. This is the part of the story where the customer would ask if we had any bungee cords or rope or string to tie down their trunk or hatchback, and this is the part of the story where I would explain we don’t provide rope or string, but they were more than welcome to revisit the store to purchase a package of bungee cords or some rope (clothesline rope was my personal recommendation).

From time to time someone actually had a strap or cord but had no idea how to use it or they thought fastening it to a license plate frame or wrapping it around a muffler was a good idea, and on other occasions they felt some small twine, string used for a kite, or even fishing line was strong enough. Are you starting to understand why I say people are stupid?

It is probably important to point out that once a customer leaves the parking lot, we didn’t really care what happened to their purchase, so if they dumped it out of the back end a mile down the road, or if their hatchback flew open and everything in their vehicle spewed out on the middle of a highway… I didn’t really care. I might feel a little bad about it, but for the most part I figured stupid people get what they deserve, so I tended to keep my mouth shut.

On more than a few occasions I loaded the item into the vehicle in such a manner than there was no possible way anyone other than a single driver could occupy the car, and in one case I remember a mother telling her kids to go back in the store and she would pick them up on a separate trip. I didn’t ask where she lived, but that might suck for the kids if it was an hour away.

I had to find the humor in the fact that the furniture received top billing while the kids stood on the sidelines. To make matters worse, I’m not sure the kids were old enough to be unsupervised, but apparently she felt ShopKo employees would do a great job of keeping an eye on her kids while she was dealing with her delivery. Again – people are stupid. Not only stupid, but irresponsible as well.

There are numerous other examples that I still have never been able to erase from my long-term memory, so I’ll make a point to document them for future blog posts. I almost have a duty to share such moronic behavior with others so they too can be amazed and/or incredibly disappointed at the intelligence level of the average person.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stupid People: The “I Don’t Know How To Park Because I’m a Moron” Person

There are days I’m amazed at the collective intelligence of the human race. Examples include when I see how we are able to launch spacecraft into orbit without them crashing back to Earth. Or when I see how we are able to pack what is essentially a powerful computer with limitless possibilities, wireless access to the Internet, a GPS, and a telephone into something no larger than a deck of cards. Or when I realize how medical advancements have resulted in the ability to prevent disease, replace organs and joints, prolong life, treat conditions, and address illnesses that would have meant years of suffering and/or the distinct possibility of lifelong disability or death only a few short decades ago.

Then there are days that I’m left shaking my head wondering how it is possible we have such stupidity in our world. Examples of this include the fact there are at least 50 accidents in my city during the first snowfall of the year which suggests people actually forget how to drive in less than 12 months. Or when I see those idiots from the Westboro Baptist Church preaching hatred and protesting at funerals. Or when people cannot understand how a four-way intersection works even after driving for 40 years. Or when I see people drag their toddlers along to hold a sign for some random politician or to protest an event or an issue with more concern about their cause than the child freezing in the cold or being rained on or getting surburned.

All of those examples aside, one of the most common areas where human stupidity is displayed is in a parking lot which leads us to my first blog post in a series devoted to human stupidity.  Now it goes without saying that everyone is well aware of what the purpose of a parking lot is, what the general rules of parking are, and what actions are required to park a vehicle. However, you cannot possible visit a large retail store on any given day without witnessing at least one of the following:
  • A car parked so haphazardly that there is no way possible to occupy the space directly adjacent to it.
  • A large vehicle which ignores all conventional understanding and is parked at least five to ten feet away from the front border of that particular parking space which in turn leaves a large portion of the vehicle hanging out in the aisle where people are supposed to be driving.
  • A car driving down the opposite direction of a one-way lane totally oblivious to the fact that even if there was an open parking space, their only option to get into the space would be to back in (or ‘reverse in’ if you are British).
  • A full size SUV or truck parked in a space clearly marked as “Compact Car Only”.
  • A large vehicle with trailer that decides it is best to park perpendicular to the parking outlines thereby taking five or six spaces when they could have just as easily parked near the far end of the lot where they could pull through in line with the painted outlines and only required two spaces.
  • A vehicle crossing the parking lot at an angle at no less than 35 or 40mph oblivious to anyone who is actually driving down the center of the aisle as intended.
  • A vehicle which decides to invent their own parking space which follows no normal rules of logic to the point you start looking around for Ashton Kutcher to see if you might be witnessing the taping of an episode of “Punk’d”.
…and my personal favorite (which only applies to those of us lucky enough to deal with snow covered parking lots)
  • Vehicles trying to guess where the actual parking outlines are, and rather than line up in line with an object like a shopping cart corral, light pole, sign, parking island, or curb… they just randomly park anywhere. This not only reduces parking capacity of the lot by a solid 20%, but the rows of cars will often weave back and forth until they resemble the trail a snake makes as it crosses a sand dune.

    In some cases this actually creates rows that are so close together, cars are actually unable to navigate down the middle of the row and instead find themselves needing to back up the entire way creating mini traffic jams that only serve to infuriate those inconvenienced by the stupidity of others.

    Just a month or so ago I was at the mall at witnessed this exact event, and the lines were so screwed up that I actually saw a parked car behind a car which was already parked across from another car – essentially boxing in the center car. I was amazed at this – because although I could understand thinking it might have been a legitimate spot (even though the tail end of the third car was easily six feet behind any other car in that row), you might have thought when the person got out of their car and realized there were two cars in front of it and that they had just boxed someone in they might have had the intelligence to move to another spot, but sadly… no.
This whole parking situation bothers me on a personal level because I simply cannot understand how someone who pulls into a lot and has been parking in lots for years cannot actually park a vehicle without a visible yellow line telling them where to park. This would be like going to a movie and sitting on the floor in an aisle because there was nobody there to tell them which seat to occupy. That isn’t only stupid – that is bang your head on a hard surface kind of stupid.

Thus, being from South Dakota and dealing with snow covered lots for several months a year, I get to deal with these idiots on a regular basis. You have the moron who parked seven feet away from the car next to them thinking that was a typical spacing method, which then forces every other car in line to adapt and when the original car leaves you are left with random spaces that aren’t quite large enough for two cars, but far too large for one. These are mixed with other spaces that would only be suitable for a motorcycle or 1982 Chevy Chevette with the exterior mirrors removed, and of course you need to add the people who are unable to judge whether they are even remotely parallel to the vehicle next to them.

Now granted several of the items in my list above may be considered rude more than just stupid, but I’ve witnessed all of the above often enough to know that most people just don’t know they are being morons. Rude people might purposefully park diagonally across two lines to prevent door dings, or park in a fire lane because they think they are special, or leave their shopping cart in the empty space next to them because they just can’t take the ten seconds required to return it to the shopping cart corral, but the difference is rude people know they are being rude and they just don’t care. Stupid people don’t even realize when they are being stupid, and because they are generally surrounded by so many other stupid people, then tend to think their behavior is normal and acceptable.

Maybe it is true you can't fix stupid... but can we at least tag them like cattle to warn others?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Judging the Book by the Cover

It is often said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, however I respectfully disagree. If that were true, then publishers wouldn’t spend millions of dollars each year designing and printing colorful covers, not to mention it would be impossible to have a “beautiful book” contest.

When you really think about it, it is actually very easy to judge books by their covers, because the title and author of the book is right there in print. Thus if I see a book by Nicholas Sparks, I can (with a certain amount of certainty) believe the book will be a love story that has a very high chance of probability of being turned into a major motion picture.

Likewise if I see a “Dummies” book, I can probably guess the subject matter will be simplified to the point that a person of average intellect can easily understand the context, and if I see a book with a picture of a shirtless man riding a horse bareback with a long haired beautiful woman grasping him from behind… it is almost guaranteed to be a cheesy romance novel.

All of that said, I realize the reason people say you can’t judge a book by its cover is because it is an analogy for other situations. In many cases it is said in reference to people and how someone might look a certain way but their personality may not match. Here too I find fault with the concept as in many cases it seems rather easy to judge people based upon outside appearances.

Case in point, if I see a 375lb man walking in Walmart, I can easily state that his caloric intake is way too high. If I see a teenage girl who has orange skin, I can determine she spends far too much time in a tanning salon and/or misunderstood the instructions on her bottle of self-tanner, and if I see a grown man protesting a military funeral with a sign reading “God Loves Dead Soldiers” in one hand and a sign reading “God Hates Fags” in the other hand I can unequivocally state that he is a heartless, ignorant, hate-filled fool who has misinterpreted the entire meaning of Christianity, and I can even ascertain he is from Kansas and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

See – it really is possible to judge a book by its cover after all.