Monday, 19 December 2011

Dumb And Dumber

My youngest daughter is one of the smartest people I know. Whatever genes for intelligence my husband and I had going, she has managed to inherit in abundance. Unfortunately for her, she has also received other traits from us which are not so desirable, including a disproportionate share of my scatterbrainedness and  laziness, which I firmly believe is the only reason she hasn't already gotten into a leading university on a generous scholarship, but you can't have everything. And on that point, I remind myself that having above-average smarts doesn't mean that you are incapable of doing stupid things, and that the good thing about doing stupid things is that it keeps you humble.

Last week, it was bitterly cold here. Icy rain turned into sleet and gale-force winds tore branches off our trees and sent  garbage cans rolling down the street. My daughter arrived at school, only to find out that it had been cancelled due to extreme weather conditions, including possible 90-mph winds and flood warnings. Just after she called me to say that she was on her way home, I stepped outside to collect our rain-drenched welcome mats. Our front door, slightly warped, blew shut and I could not open it.

I was in a bind: our back door was locked and I know from experience that it is impossible to break in. After pushing, pulling, swearing, and finally giving up, I sat down on our damp front step and waited for my smart teenager to arrive home. If anybody could figure out how to get our door open, it was her!

Five cold, wet minutes later, my daughter came home, soaked to the skin. She had 'forgotten' both her umbrella and coat -- in any school assembly she is always the one child who is not wearing a coat, sweater,  knee socks, or any other appropriate winter clothing although at home she is perversely the first person to turn on the heater -- and when I told her what had happened, she did not look pleased.

And then something really weird happened: we fell into a simultaneous twilight zone of idiocy. "Wait there," she said. "I'll go around to the back and let you in."

"But how will you get in?" I asked.

"You'll unlock the door for me," she said, not quite rolling her eyes.

"Of course!" I said -- and wondered why I hadn't thought of that myself.

It took us both thirty seconds to figure out why this would not work.

Fortunately, it took her a mere five seconds to figure out how to unstick our front door and pull it open, and she was laughing so hard by this time, it was a wonder she could do it. We turned the heat on and she spent the next 30 minutes telling me all about endoplasmic reticulum and, I think, various kinds of saturated and unsaturated fats.

My daughter has much to thank me for, especially her well-developed sense of humility.


Lisa Shafer said...

Hilarious. :)

And, as a teacher of the gifted, I can tell you that some of those kids have absolutely no common sense. They can memorize the Table of the Elements over night, but they can't keep track of their math assignments.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

Oh that sounds cold - good thing you had laughter to warm you up!

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm afraid I see too much of myself in this little story. :)

Eryl said...

She spent thirty minutes telling you about what?

You make the horror of last week's weather sound really quite romantic.

Mirka Breen said...

Oh, gosh, Mary. This is as good as the famous Winnie the Pooh asking, “Is there anybody in there?” and reluctant Rabbit answering from inside “No!” (Which Pooh finally accepted after asking, “Who said ‘No!’?” and Rabbit answered, “Nobody.”) Pat yourselves on the back for solving this one faster and more effectively than those stuffed animals.

Robin said...

I think she stumped you with the eye rolling, or you would have gotten it right away. I love how you both laughed about it. This story makes me smile.

Vijaya said...

It's a good thing she shoved the door open first before regaling you about the minutiae of cells. In such cold weather, you need some of those fats she was speaking of.

Pat said...

Lisa is right. My two husbands were/are both intellectuals and the common sense gene is sparse.
I do think cold and wet can actually put brains in melt down.
Enjoy the festive season!

Carole said...

That's just plain funny. It makes me feel better. Whenever the electricity goes out, and I think of cooking supper, my first response is to just pop something in the microwave. GRR.

Mary Witzl said...

Lisa -- It is NOW. It wasn't quite so funny at the time. I started thinking that maybe I'm not getting really early Alzheimer's -- that our drinking water might well be affecting us.

You're right about the brains/logic paradox. I teach Japanese to a boy who is brilliant. He never remembers to bring his sweater even when it's below zero outside.

Jaye -- Laughter warms us up a lot here. I wish we could find a way to change it into energy.

Charles -- Are you another absent-minded professor type? Somehow I can picture it.

Eryl -- I know. If you ever come over to visit, I'll get her to do the spiel for you. She can go on about cell biology until your eyes glaze over. And DON'T get her started on organic chemistry!

Last week's weather was something else. Isn't this week great, though?

Mirka -- It was EXACTLY like that -- good example. The weird thing was that it came over both of us at once. When we'd come to our senses, we didn't feel all that different from stuffed animals with sawdust for brains.

Robin -- I'm glad it can make someone smile! Just rereading it makes me want to run out and buy ginkgo extract.

Vijaya -- We're doing pretty well for fats here, even after I burned off quite a few waiting outside. But I'll be worried if anything like this happens again.

Pat -- I really hope that's what happened here: that the extreme weather conditions are what caused our simultaneous temporary lapse. I used to know a woman who lived in Princeton during Einstein's time there. She said he was famous for walking into the wrong house and going out in socks of two different colors. Whatever the case, it's comforting to think that our cluelessness might give people the impression that we're intellectuals.

Carole -- I do that too! It's incredible just how ingrained certain actions are too: when the water has been switched off and I KNOW this, I still go to the tap to wash my hands half a dozen times before it truly sinks in.

Anonymous said...

You both will be telling this story for decades to come, Mary! Having gone off on a walk without my keys a few times now, only to discover when I return that the other people in the house have also left, I know well the sinking feeling of having to hang around in the garage, or under a tree, without a book, until someone returns to let me in!

angryparsnip said...

So funny and extremely cold !

My doors have the old push in and turn the button lock on the door knob plus a deadbolt. The first year I lived here I keep forgetting that closing the door without popping the button will get you locked out. Ten times yes count them ten times I locked myself out while getting the mail, watering or just watching the dogs, till I figured it out. I even had to break a door window to get back in one day.
No smarts here !

cheers, parsnip

Adrienne said...

Priceless...I love those moments - and being able to laugh about them.

Ruth Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth Kelly said...

You do have a unique gift with words.