It’s pretty sad how little some Americans know. Just watch Jay Leno’s skit “Jaywalking.” You’ll be horrified; well I guess you will be if you know anything. How do people not know who the first president is or what city the Washington Monument is in? How do people not know who John Wilkes Booth is or which president Robert Kennedy was related to? How do people not know simple geography?
I think there are stupid questions. I don’t think most questions are stupid, but every now and then you come across one that leaves you speechless and staring. This happened once at NHS, and the question went down in history. I’ll tell you about it sometime, but more recently, I ran into a dumb question yesterday.
I am currently in St. Louis, MO, for a meeting. I flew from BWI to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and then on to St. Louis. I was flying with a coworker named Aaron, who I’ve developed a pretty good friendship with. We talk music, movies and home-ownership, and in exchange for my never-ending supply of opinions about music, he keeps me up to date on the most hilarious of comedies and occasionally takes some time to teach me about MR physics. Our flight was scheduled to leave BWI at 5:35 PM, but due to an unusually speedy Light Rail, we found ourselves starving at the airport at 3:30 PM. We sought fried things and beer and found it at Rams Head on the C Pier of BWI.
Due to snow in Atlanta and Charlotte, cities where millimeters of snow could mean catastrophe on the roadways, several flights were very delayed or canceled. This meant the restaurant was jam packed with pissed (both in the angry and alcohol sense) people, and we were forced to briefly share a table with a seemingly affluent (judging clothes, iPhone, luggage, and diamond bracelet) middle-aged, American (judging by a distinct mid-Atlantic accent) woman. She was clearly frustrated, but Aaron, ever the schmoozer and general nice-all-around-guy, asked her how she was doing. She said, “I was supposed to go to Atlanta, but it’s been delayed forever, so I’m not going to wait anymomre and I’ll try another day because there is some sort of weather problem that is preventing the planes.” Not hearing the woman’s destination in her extreme run-on sentence, Aaron asked where she was going. She said, “Atlanta.” He said, “We’re going to Cincinnati, so we should be okay.” She said, “Well, is Cincinnati near Atlanta?”
I was beside the woman across from Aaron and was treated to a rapidly changing facial expression on his face as his brain tried to process the questions. Finally, with a straight face, he managed, “Uh. No. It’s not close at all.” Seriously? How do you know know that? These last two questions were left unspoken in Aaron’s head.
Eventually she left. This may not seem that funny, but if you could have seen Aaron’s face, you would have thought it hilarious. I just don’t get not knowing this. Sure, if you weren’t from the USA, you can be forgiven for not knowing that Atlanta is in Georgia and Cincinnati is in Ohio, and those states don’t share any borders. Actually, that may not even be true because our coworker from Mumbai (then Scotland, then Switzerland) knew the two cities were not in close proximity. He’s only lived in the U.S. since October 2009 and his travels have not taken him much further than the wonderful metropolis of Baltimore, MD.
I just think Americans are complacent. Not all of them, of course, but enough of them to make the rest of us look bad. Parents, make your kids look at maps. Watch Jeopardy with them (this is what my parents did with me and it became an addiction to trivia…wanna play Trivial Pursuit?). Do something. Don’t let them embarass you in the streets of L.A. when they come across a Jay Leno intern with an HD camera and a shotgun mic.