Thursday, May 18, 2006

Are we here? Tourist season is here; I give directions more. Often to things that are right there.

I point, they look, they don't see that that is it.

Because maybe

1. They see too much. Out of all the buildings they can't see that that's the building. Out of all the jumble, they can't sort out what is a bus stop.

2. They thought they knew what it looked like and it doesn't look like that. This morning I was directing a woman to a bus stop that was right there, catty corner across the intersection. One of those SF bus stops that our a concrete stand, curb high, after the first lane of traffic. She couldn't see it. I unwisely used the San Francisco word for such things "Island." It didn't look like she expected a bus stop to look

I told her what to do. Cross this street. Then cross the other street most of the way but not all the way. Stop where all those people are standing most of the way across the street. The bus will stop there.

She got it.

3. They didn't expect someone they asked for directions to talk like me. Like, I might slip up and make some passing observation about something or other. No. Just give them what they want.

People being confused about something about the way I talk can be a reminder of the life long lesson--don't seem smarter than you gotta seem. I will fight that lesson in some contexts, to better serve to people, to better avoid getting bored, but hey, in giving directions, I can just, what the heck, give them directions.

Which reminds me about how the white media says that black kids are hassled by other black kids for being good at school, and told that studying is white.

I just read a piece by a black surgeon that he was great at school, then succumbed to the hazing and got bad a school, and then came to his senses and got great at school again.

When white media talk about this phenomenon, the underlying assumption is that white kids who are good at school are bathed in the support of their friends.

No way. Being really smart is socially tricky, world without end. People liked me in school. I wasn't popular, but I wasn't unpopular. But that was the result of work to overcome how very good I was at school stuff.

Carol Gilligan, a Harvard professor has done a lot of research on how young women become less good at school at puberty. Her research has been criticized for being too white, which she is
working on.

I have never seen the idea that black kids get taunted by black kids for being good at school mentioned at the same time as Gilligan's research on [white] women taking an intellectual nosedive at 12, 13, 14. It's part of the same thing I think. Women get dumber partly because of taunting, the social vibe.

It's also part of the same thing that being outstanding is tricky, being outstanding is hard to take from the outside. Just because someone has some outstanding talent doesn't mean they have the social skills to frame that talent in a way others can take. I don't know if people should frame it, but the days are long when you got to spend most of your daylight with kids and the kids feel threatened by you and look for ways to ride you.

Do people want things to be really better? Really better would be really different. Really different takes some getting used to.

The talented person can see it--it's right there. An island in our very midst that we can walk to if we're willing to walk.

By the time people are really looking for another way, a lot of people who could have been good at giving directions are gone. They may be still living but they got with the stupid program, being stupid enough to make it through the day with nervous young people. They have used their intelligence to not be too intelligent and they have succeeded.

They can't direct us to the island in our midst that we need because they can no longer see it.