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.