Onward and Awkward
Random vs. Intentional Stupidity
With Don Dudding
The topic today is stupidity, and it’s tempting to start out by classifying stupidity into two types, but I think we all know that there’s more varieties of stupid than ice cream flavors. If I were to categorize stupidity into two groups, however, I think I’d separate it into “randomly stupid” and “intentionally stupid.” Now here’s where I separate the two types of stupid from each other. Everyone falls victim to Random Stupidity. It comes at us from out of nowhere. When it comes to Random Stupidity, I’m as much a participate as anyone I’ve ever met. I might even go so far as to make the claim that I’ve a knack for it. Random stupidity finds me as though it’s playing a cosmic game of Hide and Seek; practically everyday, Random Stupidity wanders up, taps me on the shoulder, and says, “You’re it!”
I suppose a few examples might be helpful, but I expect most people already know what I’m talking about when I say there’s a difference between “random stupidity” and “intentional stupidity.” Random Stupidity comes to us like a stray dog who thinks we’ve got a sandwich hidden in our pocket, and Intentional Stupidity happens when we frankly just should have known better than to invite it to ride along shotgun.
To be more specific, Random Stupidity is getting into my truck last night after dark and putting the spare door key (which does not start the engine) into the ignition and tricking myself into believing that I had a dead battery. Intentional Stupidity was the choice the Ford Motor Company made to come up with an expensive computerized doodad that makes only especially exorbitantly priced keys work in my truck’s ignition.
When I bought this truck used, I was only given one key that both unlocked the door and turned the ignition. When I went to get a spare key made for the inevitable day Random Stupidity sees I’m running late and decides to squirrel away my keys under the couch, I was told by the local Ford dealership that a key without the electronic doodad would be six bucks, but the key with the electronic doodad would be one hundred and forty dollars. Say what? Yes, a key that only opens the door is six dollars, but an extra key that actually allows the vehicle to run as it was intended is one hundred and forty.
Well, I don’t know what’s in your wallet, but my wallet has more useless scraps of paper in it than any with presidential faces on them. Because in my youth I actually owned entire vehicles that weren’t worth one hundred and forty dollars, I went with the six dollar spare key that would allow me to alleviate the situation whenever Random Stupidity locked the working key in the ignition, and I vowed to make an extraordinary effort not to lose my set with “The Only Key That Works.” For a hundred and forty dollars, I can be very motived to keep any eye on my keys. The spare “I Only Open the Freakin’ Door Key” I put on my set of work keys. Now, and I can’t say how typical this situation is for most folks, but for some time now I’ve been forced to carry two sets of keys: the first set that only has my house key and the magical key that actually starts my truck and the second set that has the intentionally stupid key that only unlocks the truck’s doors and all my other work keys.
I’m absolutely sure that if you’d ask someone from the Ford Motor Company why they felt the urge to make a key that costs so much money to replace the keys motorists had been using successfully for the better part of century, that they’d tell us it was for the consumer’s benefit, and they’d probably even be able to say it with a straight face. But, I think we all know that nobody was clambering for a hundred and forty dollar key that did essentially the same function as the old keys we had that allowed us to wander into any hardware store in the country and get a duplicate made for six bucks.
So, there I was last night when Random Stupidity decided I was looking too serene and felt like I must have needed some extra anxiety to perk me up. The lanyard I keep attached to the magical truck keyring to help keep it easier to find somehow broke off in my pocket. So when I reached into my pants to get my ignition key, my fingers somehow come up with the intentionally stupid key instead. And so I had to sit there and stare for about five minutes at all the erratic hieroglyphics that illuminate the dashboard to try to understand how there could be enough battery power to light up all those weird symbols without there being enough charge to move the starter. Eventually it dawned on me that among the dozen or so Kryptonian emblems that were blinking at me, one of them was trying to alert me to the fact that I was using the wrong freakin’ key. Random Stupidity had unlocked the door; Intentional Stupidity had wanted to go along for the ride.
Thus, Intentional Stupidity isn’t just the neat tricks we see our in-laws perform at family reunions; it’s also the deliberate decisions of corporate executives who decide to fleece their consumers out of every extra dollar they can shear off them because for reasons I can’t fathom, corporations seem to no longer care whether we like them or not. Once upon a time in America, there was enough competition between the major brands that they used to go out of their way to engender consumer loyalty. Now, I guess they figure there’s just enough of us out there to sell their rubbish that needn’t bother to hide their schemes whenever they want to extort us with outlandish prices for the basic components that actually make their products work.
With all the rampant Intentional Stupidity that’s been happening in Washington these days, I expect some readers may be wondering why I didn’t use Congress to illustrate the principal. I guess perhaps I’m not a big fan of shooting fish in a barrel. That would have been too easy.
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