Smith: Sorry, I’m dumb
Standing in the breakfast-buffet line, Day One, piling on as many free eggs and potatoes as the plate will physically withstand, I’m wondering if I’ve saved enough room for the turkey bacon, which is what’s currently in front of me. Yeah, no problem. I’m cross-stacking it on top of my food pile like a childhood Lincoln Logs project when the man behind me in line asks, “Turkey bacon? Is that supposed to be healthier than regular bacon?”
“Well,” I reply, “not for the turkey.”
Pause. Silence. Stare.
He continues, “Because I’m taking a physical on Monday for enhanced life insurance and I find that when I have too much protein it spikes my peptides relating to the hemangioblastic hemodynamic algorhthyms, and I think that may not fare well for the insurance reader.”
Pause. Silence. Stare. In reverse this time.
“Uh,” I finally say. “Not for the turkey.”
It was either that or say, “Oh, I’m sorry, but before you go any further I should point out that I’m dumb.” Which I’m really, really trying to avoid saying, even though it’s true, and the opportunity to say it seems to present itself several times a day.
Who wants to just come right out and declare such a thing, right? No — better to just let my actions speak for themselves.
I understand the guy’s mistake, thinking that perhaps I wasn’t dumb. I’m working as th audio-visual guy for a doctor conference, and my name tag has a little red ribbon below it that reads, “Faculty.” Same as all the actual (non-dumb) doctors’ name tags read. So until I open my mouth, there’s no real way to tell for sure that I’m not dumb.
Riding the elevator to the meeting room on Day Two of the week-long conference, I recognize the woman riding down with me as one of the doctors from the meeting. I decide to break the ice by saying something insightful and relevant.
“We’re having French toast this morning,” I declare, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically for 6:30 a.m.
“Oh?” she replies, then immediately breaks into doctor-stuff questions. Where do I practice? Where did I do my residency? Lamborghini or Ferrari? I hold out for as long as I can. How long is this elevator ride, anyway? One more floor and I’m going to have to just up and say, “Look, I know a lot about this morning’s breakfast-buffet offerings, a fair bit about pre-war Blues artists, quite a lot about graphic novels and a little bit about chickens, but pretty much nothing at all about projection-based dual energy CCTA scans and their propensity for returning data sets that are too high in keV. Still — French toast. That’s life-enhancing knowledge, right? Surely there’s something in the Hippocratic oath about it. Didn’t the ancient Greeks invent French toast?”
We get to our floor barely in time for me to not have to blow my cover. I pretend to be confused as to how to exit the elevator, allowing her to go on ahead of me. Later I notice her seated at one of the tables eating French toast. See?
As the week progressed and the mistaken intelligence scenarios continued to play themselves out (note to self: leave stethoscope at home on future gigs), I became better and better at avoiding pleading dumb. You’d be amazed how far a well-rehearsed chin-stroking and a perfectly timed “hmmm” will get you in your quest for presumed smartitudeness. I pulled it all off despite rarely understanding a word that was being spoken to me.
Someone mentions the “perfusion analysis of the anterior aortic wall,” and I nod knowingly. When asked about my opinion on the difference between “lipid-rich and non-calcified plaque,” I take a long, thoughtful sip of coffee then pretend to answer an emergency call. One doctor turns to me and says, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!” Or at least that’s what I heard.
I respond with a muttered, “Indeed, indeed,” then whip out a pad and write him a prescription for Oxycontin.
He runs off to tell his colleagues how smart I am.
Next week I’m scheduled to work as an audio-visual guy at a lawyer’s conference.
Piece o’ cake.
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.
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