Archaeologists perusing dusty, discarded thumb drives full of Facebook posts in the future will almost certainly come to one conclusion: that social media was the exclusive domain of the intelligentsia. I couldn’t blame them for their conclusion. Every third FB post, it seems, is a complaint about how stupid everyone on the planet is (or is becoming). We’ve dressed up our accusations of assclownosity lately; many of them originate from behind the cheery musketeer of Someecards, or from felt, or from the mouths of hijacked 50s housewives. But regardless of the messenger – musketeer, muppet, or mistress of the house – the message is always the same: you’re all frustrating idiots, and I do wish you’d either pull your shit together, or – barring said pulling taking place – behead yourselves and improve the world’s oxygen supply.

I’m far from immune. I grimace at the mangling of its/it’s and your/you’re; I’ve had to seek outside help for my issues with commonly-misspelled words.  I try for my best Gandhi smile when I hear I could care less. I reached for that smile this week when I received a presentation that someone elected to do in Excel. I’m no NDT, but if memory serves, Office includes a presentation development tool, and its icon is not a little green X. But I smiled my full Mahatma, and migrated graphics and text and clipart arrows and whirly process diagrams over into PowerPoint, and got it going in the right direction once again with as gently-worded an email reply as I could muster.

Why do I bring this up? Because I’m pretty sure this sort of zero-tolerance, draw-pardner! philosophy we’ve acquired toward those with different mental wiring is an acquired trait in adults, and I found my rationale at – of all places – Spirit, the Halloween store.

Halloween is always an interesting time around here. A’s costume choice usually churns through nineteen different hand-wringing choices before grudgingly coming to rest on one (“but NEXT year I’m being the Arbiter, Dad’). He’s the only child I’ve ever encountered that once changed costumes in the middle of trick-or-treating. H always surprises me; one year, she was a zombie cheerleader, and she seemed to be going down the Monster High route this year, but then zagged on me and elected to be a bee. I kept waiting for the punchline. ‘With a green face and kind of a lurching flightpath? A zombee?1

‘No…Dad…just a bee.’

Meanwhile, I lost track of E as we traversed the store; doubling back, I found her in the plastic-weaponry aisle. That was an anomaly in and of itself, as it’s usually A who’s camped out in Plastic Weaponry, brandishing this and that and generally making other parents wish they’d picked another time to go shopping. E had, however, elected to go as her Dungeons & Dragons characterthis year, and was looking for just the right half-elven touch to her blade weapon. “Excuse me,” she asked of one of the cheery-but-weary seasonal employees shlepping crates of fake noses around the store. “Is this a khopesh, or a scimitar?”

Now, E’s got this kind of very matter-of-fact look she adopts when she’s genuinely concerned about such things, and it came forth, because clearly she couldn’t imagine a world in which seasonal-hire college kids aren’t extensively trained in the proper nomenclature of their plastic weapons. It’s a look beyond her years, one that conveys a shovelful of gravitas and a real need for a reliable answer. It must have touched this poor woman at some level, because she set her fake-nose crate aside and squatted down with E, informing her that she really didn’t know, and what could E tell her about those things? She then smiled and listened while E went on at length about her confusion, that the blade of one looks like this, and the other looks like that, and this thing was sort of halfway in between. The Spirit store clerk never got impatient, and neither did E, despite the woman clearly having no idea whatsoever what this girl was talking about. After a few minutes of conversation, during which neither hurried the other – and the clerk did little more than listen to E’s seemingly endlessly-unfolding arguments in favor of each – they settled on the fact that both blades are Middle Eastern in origin, and that either might sub nicely for an Elven weapon. E was sufficiently satisfied to add this fine injection-molded product to our cart, and that was that. No knee-jerk eye-rolling; no urge to haul out the keyboard, lip bitten nearly white with rage, and task a musketeer with calling a clerk an idiot on Facebook3.

Is it patience, perhaps? Is it not that we need others to be vastly intelligent, but merely patient while we work out the differences between our knowledge bases, our cognition models? If I assess E’s future interactions with others strictly by her WISC-IV, she’s not going to meet many people on the planet who are close to being her raw intellectual equal – but she’s got more patience and willingness to interact now than most neurotypical forty-year-olds I know.

I’m going to take inspiration from her. The guy who sent me the Excel ‘presentation’ is an operations god, and I’m sure he knows things about Six Sigma and Lean that would make me look like a preschooler by comparison. We each have our own highly unique set of perceptions and skills, and where our Venn diagrams touch and intersect and flood with color, we’re impressed – but where they bounce from each other, soap bubbles in summer wind, we’re instantly convinced of the other person’s alarmingly high dingleshit quotient, and off we go to Facebook to enlist the help of the Cheerfully Sardonic Musketeer once again. In reality, we’ve just failed, I think, to see things from their perspective.

I’d like to believe it’s true. I’m pretty sure the Spirit clerk had some specialized knowledge of her own. After all, for the price of a few patient minutes squatted on the floor with a nine-year-old, she sold a fairly pricey plastic khopesh. Or was it a scimitar?  I don’t think the checkout clerk cared as he ran my card.


1 Pretty sure I have one, maybe two years left of bad Dad-grade jokes like this before the tween rolly-eyed sighing begins.

Yeah, we geek it pretty hard over here.

3 Not that she’s old enough to be on FB anyway. But I’d rather she didn’t learn this as a knee-jerk reaction in any form.

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