Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Stupid is as Stupid Does"


By Mark W. Danielson
The difference between ignorance and stupidity is more than semantics. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, whereas stupidity is the inability to apply it. When authors witness stupid acts, they should attempt to determine whether it was caused by ignorance or bad behavior. Realizing the difference may help you develop better characters. Lord knows there’s a daily bounty of cases to draw from.

But rather than lecture on this subject, I’m providing a real example of undesirable human behavior and ask that you identify the location where this incident took place. I will reveal the actual location later in a blog comment. It will be interesting to see if any personal bias influenced your answers. Here we go:

The location: A Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. The Wendy’s staff: All African-American, clean uniforms, working as a team. The disgruntled customers: A husband and wife in their early fifties, casually dressed, both Caucasian. The situation: The couple’s food order was not processed properly.

The play book: The couple approaches the order counter, three burgers in hand, anger in their eyes. The wife, short, stout, with gray streaked hair, says to the manager who came to assist, “None of our orders are right. We’re supposed to have . . .” The manager takes the burgers, inspecting them while listening, goes to the kid making the burgers, and tells him exactly what needs to be done. As their new burgers are being made, the wife continues her squawking, saying, to no one in particular in a tone suggesting superiority, “We should get our money back and go somewhere else!” Too busy hawking the burger-maker, the husband doesn’t acknowledge her. Annoyed, the wife leaves. Within two minutes, the manager hands fresh burgers to the husband with an apology, but rather than speaking, the man casts a cold shoulder and walks away. Shaking my head, I tell the girl who took my order, “I don’t understand why people are so rude.” Wisely, she doesn’t comment. Soon after, my order is complete and I leave to find a seat.

I find a table near the rude couple, not by choice, but rather a lack of available space. Turns out this couple is part of a large group whose primary conversation centers on church. Forgive me from bringing up religion, but this couple’s actions seem to contradict the Golden Rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. Then again, I witness plenty of oxy-morons during my travels. Finishing my meal ends this story with the rude couple still sitting among friends.
Dissecting this scenario, was the Wendy’s order error the result of stupidity, ignorance, or oversight? Well, it can’t be stupidity or ignorance since the second order was made correctly, so that leaves oversight -- probably caused by the large lunch crowd simultaneously ordering from dine-in and drive-through customers. Was the couple’s harsh response the result of stupidity or ignorance? Well, you have to give them credit for recognizing Wendy’s error so it can’t be ignorance, therefore let’s chock it up to stupidity. Like Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Was their rude behavior racially motivated? From my observation, I suspect racial bias played a part.

So, now it’s time for your written test. Based upon the information provided, where do you think this Wendy’s is located? Before you answer, remember that I travel the world for a living, and that stupidity isn’t limited to this country. I will tell you that it didn’t happen in Asia. (You don’t find many rude people there.) I will also tell you that whether or not you answer correctly is irrelevant. Again, I will provide the location in a blog comment a day or two after you’ve had a chance to think it over and guess. But what’s really important about this whole adventure is that authors should always pay attention to human behavior. Doing so will make you better writers.

13 comments:

Shane Cashion said...

Hmmm, this is kind of a tough one. As we all know, most things bizarre take place in Florida or Germany. This behavior, while poor, probably doesn't rise to the level we commonly associate with Florida or Germany. I'll have to give it more thought.

Bill Kirton said...

Intriguing, Mark. One of the problems of identifying the area is that, unfortunately, the world is sprinkled (quite thickly in some places, including the UK) with people who are:
a) stupid
b) ignorant
c) stupid and ignorant
d) rude
e) bigoted
f) all of the above

If it's in the UK, though, I'd be surprised because I don't think we have any Wendy's over here. On the other hand, the types you identify proliferate here, so I'll cop out by saying, with regret, that it could happen just about anywhere.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Shane, Bill, you're absolutely right on all of your accounts except the correct location.

Ben Small said...

California. Why not? We blame them for most stuff. :)

Mark W. Danielson said...

Ben, nice try, and can certainly apply,but no . . .

Larry's Airplane said...

I'm guessing Georgia because of the Forest Gump picture (he's sitting on a bench in Savannah,) the proliferation of churches there, and lastly because of the racism that I was surprised to see when we lived there...especially in the older white people.

Paula

Mark W. Danielson said...

Paula, you're luke warm, but the photo of Forrest Gump is only there because he said it in the movie.

Ben Small said...

Gotta be Florida, although I thought Georgia had a case. Tennessee and North Carolina may also be in contention.

Earl Staggs said...

Interesting, Mark. My first thought is NYC. There's a stereotypical image of New Yorkers being rude, not so much by choice, but due to the rushed and always competitive lifestyle.

That being said, I'm going with a wild SWAG: The Vatican.

Jean Henry Mead said...

It could have happened anywhere but I'm guessing Salt Lake City, which is the one of the most unlikely places because of its religious base.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Here's another clue. The top ten rudest cities in the US were recently named: Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington DC, Boston, Baltimore, Last Vegas, Orlando, and Dallas/Fort Worth. Surprisingly, Newark didn't make the cut. But this particular incident didn't happen in any of those cities, but rather in a city named for peace.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I've seen some interesting Facebook comments regarding this blog. Nice that people are reading it, but some have missed the point of my article. Bias determines how we relate to each other and also how relate to situations. We all have bias from time to time, and this was clearly the case in Olive Branch, Mississippi that day at Wendy's. It's ironic that it occurred in a city named for peace. Then again, we're all human, and as such, subjected to whatever influences we had in our upbringings. Authors benefit from observing human behavior, but we all benefit from monitoring our own.

Chester Campbell said...

Interesting, Mark. Unfortunately, except for the all-black staff, it could have happened most anywhere in the country. Rudeness and ignorance know no bounds. Having said that, I must add that in my travels and observations, I have found such behavior in a small minority. But they make interesting characters.