Monday, July 29, 2013

Stereotypes are bad and stuff.

"Utah drivers are terrible."

This seemingly-cliche declaration of vehicular superiority never really made me all that mad, but it did seem pretty unfounded. Those who threw this bit down were usually from Idaho, where the roads seemed to be the site of a NASCAR qualifier that no one had bothered to put an end to. How can they stamp on the Beehive State's honor like that when, where they're from, a vehicle that can't flatten a hippo isn't a vehicle worth driving?

It gets five feet to the gallon, too.

When the word "stereotype" makes it to CNN, they're usually flashing pictures of racial differences, religious bouts, and the like. Most stereotypes that we deal with, though, seem fairly petty in comparison (such as driving + home state). While some are out of left field, there are a few staple snap judgments. Some are unfounded (see above), but others have a ring of truth. Does that make it better or worse to mention them?

I don't know. If you want moral direction, turn to Mr. Rogers, not someone that just denigrated the population of Idaho. Oh, and to "denigrate" means to "put down," my friends to the north.

I kid, I kid. Really, Idaho is one of my favorite spots on the planet. I'm half-Idahoan, for taters' sake. How can you hate Idaho? They're gracious enough to share the most fantastic potatoes in the US of A. And who doesn't like potatoes?

Terrorists, that's who.

"Infidel fuel."

Anyway, some more stereotypes? Might as well; I've already angered the folks of the Gem State. My time may be short.

"Have you heard their Southern drawl? They must be pretty dull."

We have cartoons to thank for this gem. How many Disney bits have the scientist or mastermind dropping "y'all" here and there? (On that note, why are all cartoon scientists German?) When someone wants to feign stupidity while telling a story or relaying an event, you've got the customary pitch drop and horribly-rendered hillbilly accent.

I was in the South for two years, and I can bust this one. There were people down there that could out-brain any of us with their hippocampus tied behind their back. All that, with a drawl as thick as molasses. "So there aren't any cognitively-challenged individuals down yonder, then?" Of course there are; you can find dimwits anywhere, if you look hard enough. There just happens to be an abundance wherever you find [insert rival sports team] fans.

"She's just a stay-at-home mom."

Ooooooh, man. You just... you didn't... Oooooooh...

Welp... It's been real, friend.

Find three cats with symptoms of ADHD, and inject them with class-A heroin. Then, disarm a nuke under the streets of San Francisco with sunglasses on at night. While that's all going down, make sure that satellite launch you're overseeing in Croatia is going according to plan, even though one of the engineers showed up drunk.

Bundle that together in a Uranium crock pot, set on "devastatingly unpredictable," and let it simmer for a few days. Gather the results, and multiply by about the radius of Neptune. In feet. You've about reached the difficulty level of being a stay-at-home mom. Now repeat 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, for as long as those "ADHD/heroin cats" decide to stay at home.

Kind of a... colorful way of describing it, but from what I've observed (and what little I understand), being a stay-at-home mom is hard. Very hard. We're talking Chuck-Norris-knuckle-tips hard (they can break steel, diamond, and the fabric of spacetime). So when a woman is asked what she wants to do, and they respond "be a mom," I don't roll my eyes like much of the professional world. Have you ever seen the ending of "Rudy?"

It's like that, but in my head. Props, moms and future-moms.

Speaking of the female folk:

"Women are illogical. They're totally run by their emotions."

Nope. Not gonna touch this one. I've already got Idaho crying for blood, I don't need half the Earth's population to join their ranks.

"People who go into psychology are crazy themselves, for sure."

Okay, I'm biased on this front. Yes, it's true you can visit any psych department at any university and find your fair share of dingbats. However, as with the "where to find idiots" idea, you can observe nutters in any field. I was astounded, as a psychology major, at the lack of insanity among my ranks. Most are very stable men and women, who have a passion for people and how they work.

Now, if you're looking for a den of lunatics, there are other buildings I can direct you to.

"The syllabus... I can't stop seeing the syllabus..."

"You're 6'6", and you're afraid of heights?!"

"You spent nine months in a uterus, with no wiggle room, and you're claustrophobic?"
And boom goes that logic.

What about you? Any misguided pigeonholing that gets your goat? Proverbial horsing around that gets your tail in a twist? Some piggish ideas that you'd like to rat out?

Okay, I'm done.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's to fear? Oh... I see...

A few weeks ago, my physiological psychology (neurology) professor was bestowing upon us all kinds of knowledge-y bits concerning the emotion we call fear. Have you ever thought about what it'd be like to describe fear to someone who'd never felt it before?

"You see something that might hurt you, and your blood starts pumping pretty hard. You have an urge to run."
"Ah... I remember you saying that you're afraid of cows. Do you think they'll hurt you?"
"Well... no. But it's just... they're... cows. You know?"

Behold, the face of terror made manifest.

Fear of fire might be easier to explain, or even fear of dogs. But cows? Come to think of it, there are lots of "common" phobias out there that may not be completely rational. Let's take a closer look:

(DISCLAIMER! If I poke fun at one of your greatest fears, don't get all huffy. You'll have your revenge at the end of the post.)


This is a fairly common one, and rightfully so! A fall of a few feet can off a person; even a few inches can lay on the hurt, if physics happens to be in that kind of mood at the time. That being so, the basic idea of acrophobia (fear of heights) makes sense. But why, then, do I get nervous when I'm on a balcony 20 feet up, but not when I'm on a roller coaster?
Screaming around a massive track at 2 to 3 G's, being tossed around like a Nerf football at a family reunion? Feeling great. Near the top of a 16-foot ladder? Activate panic mode, and pray for gravity to be merciful.

Heh heh... "Mercy" ...


Too many bugs are venomous, whose bites can kill, maim, or make your shin look like Mount Kilimanjaro. Given that, one's instinctual fear of them makes sense. But moths?! 

I know of folks who are deathly afraid of moth, butterflies, potato bugs, you name it. I'm not the biggest fan of creepy crawlies myself. (Living in the South for two years intensified that hatred fifty fold. I'm looking at you, cockroaches.) Still, butterflies? What are they going to do, flutter? Mosey? Peacefully glide into your nose and suck out your brain? You've been watching Jumanji, haven't you?


Why clowns?

That's why. 'Nuff said. Moving on.


There's some real social psychology at the heart of this one: We have our pride to defend, and that's pretty tough when you're stumbling like a newborn giraffe over the word "implications." That, and there's no real escape when you're speaking to the masses; you can't just bound over the podium and make a break for it. Well... you could, but they probably wouldn't invite you to speak in church again for a while. Don't get any ideas.

"The pews are hurdles! The pews are hurdles!"

Jerry Seinfeld once joked about the fact that public speaking is the #1 fear in America. It's ranked higher than death. That means, according to Mr. Seinfeld, most people would rather be chilling in the casket rather than giving the eulogy. Huh.

Remember how I mentioned y'all would be getting your revenge at the end of the post? It comes in the form of a confession. One of my greatest fears?


'Tis true, I'm afraid. A phobia that's most often associated with children's books and comforting monologues from Mr. Rogers haunts me to this day. You're probably laughing. I'm okay with that. Really though, it's cool; I acknowledge that it's an fairly irrational fear. True, if you're struck by a bolt of lightning you can be cooked from the inside out, but there's really nothing to fear. Even a near miss can cause hearing loss, but hey, no sweat. It's just nature's pure, unadulterated fury being manifest in a flash of white-hot electrical ire.

When Mother Nature finds the toilet seat up.

My grandma has never been a fan of lightning, and the same goes for my mom. Did I inherit this terror from them, genetically or via observation? I like to think so. Makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Serving a mission in South Carolina didn't help this one much, either. During the summer months, they have a thunderstorm roll in at 5:00 pm (you can set your watch by it) that sticks around for about twenty minutes, then goes on its merry way. You'd think that repeated exposure would snap me out of it. Nope. Nope nope nope. If the sky is a-rumblin', I'm inside, reminding myself that being nearly as tall as a lightning rod doesn't mean I'm in any increased danger.

So, what are YOU afraid of? Leave a comment below, and spill the beans.
Unless you're afraid of legumes. We understand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And you are...?

There was a newlywed couple that I taught while on my mission. They lived in an area called Gaston, south of Cayce ("By the River"). They had a two-story house, with a pond/marsh behind their property. He was taller, with black hair and a larger nose. She was petite, had red hair, and was a little timid. Their dog, Kratos (a name the husband gleaned from one of his favorite video games), was a Pit Bull mix, with a gray body and white "socks." He was going to a community college to become a technician, while she was working as a secretary. Their living room had a glass table in the middle, with a black leather couch on one side, and a green microfiber sofa on the other.

For the life of me, I cannot remember their names.

I get this error a lot. It's like my
brain is running Windows Vista.

My brain sees fit to store every last detail of their lives I could glean, but can't spare a few neurons to keep their names.

It's always been this way: I can recall details about a person, yet their name fades like an optimistic mood on a Monday morning. More than a few times, I've learned someone's name, only to realize that I can't remember it less than ten seconds after they just gave it to me.

When I tell people about my brain-leak, the response is nearly universal: "I'm horrible at remembering names, too!" If this is true, and the majority of folks have trouble recalling what you're called, why don't we get rid of that social stigma of asking a person's name again? And again? And again?

Picture a world like that. You wouldn't hurt her feelings when you spaced while asking her out. He'd forgive you for introducing him as "Jack" to your coworkers, when you meant to say "Jake," "Jackson," or "Omar." 

Do want.

Alas, we still live in a reality where asking for a refresher is interpreted as "you're so insignificant to me, I didn't even bother to make note of your existence." At least, that what I think it means, judging by the death-glare they often beam out.

With that in mind, I've concocted a system to get someone's name for the second (or third, or fourth...) time with little or no chance of getting slammed with the evil eye:

1) Hear the person's name.
2) Immediately forget it (don't worry, this part comes naturally).
3) Later, when seeing that person in an informal context, ask them how to spell their name.
4) Brace for the weird look they're bound to send your way. Who asks how to spell "Sarah," or "Jim?"
5) Respond with a friendly "No, your last name!" [Of course they're asking for my last name! They know how to spell "Jim"... Silly me.]
  5.1) If their last name is also common and easy to spell, explain that you've seen alternate spellings, and you       
         didn't want to mix theirs up.
6) After they spell both first and last, write it down. Not only does it keep you from forgetting again as easily, but it shows them just how intent you are to remember their name. Why not just write it down the first time? That may come across as rather creepy, if the situation isn't right.

There you have it; you've just snagged their full name again, written it down, and shown that you care enough to make a note of who they are, with no hurt feelings.

Deceptive, you say? Possibly. It's either that, or you can keep asking them who in the world they are, negative karma and all.

What do y'all think? Are you good at remembering names? What's your secret? Do you have a special way to remember who people are? Share in the comments, if you please. 

Leave your name, too. Just in case.