Tuesday, January 24, 2006

High Stupidity in the Real and Virtual World

In a day, I come across plenty of stupidity. I work in New York, one of the largest cities in the world, so that -- fortunately -- increases my chances thereof. The fact that I deal with a variety of people who work for The City of New York doesn't hurt things, either. So all in all, I've managed to concoct a recipe for encountering mental midgets on a regular -- if not daily -- basis.

Now that we've got that cleared up, I have found that stupidity -- and my recognition thereof -- isn't and shouldn't be limited strictly to those dummies in my general vicinity. On the contrary -- I've found that there is a variety from which to choose, and in part, I like to take the time in this space to pay homage to those morons near and far who have managed, despite the odds against them, to catch my attention and who have excelled in their abilities to impress me with their sheer ineptitude, foolishness and/or overall lack of purpose.

The first candidate involves the story a friend sent me via e-mail; apparently a gentleman in San Diego was speeding and was caught speeding on photo-radar, those little cameras mounted on or near traffic lights designed to snap a photo of a car speeding or going through a red light, as an example. Apparently, this individual received a $40 summons for speeding and a photo of his car exceeding the speed limit. In response, said individual returned a copy of the summons with a photograph of $40. About a week later, he received his photograph, a copy of the summons and a photograph of a pair of handcuffs.

Needless to say, he paid the fine.

I actually don't necessarily think this individual is particularly stupid. First and foremost, any state or region that attempts to ticket someone for speeding and penalize them with a moving violation is, in my opinion, violating the law. If I am driving my brother's car and he and I look almost identical, why should he receive a ticket if it's my driving that is violating the law? In other words, why should anyone accept a penalty -- ie a moving violation, which results in violation points against an individual's license -- when they could simply and easily claim that their friend or family member was driving? Since there is reasonable doubt, there is no judge in the country who would be able -- willingly -- to implement that penalty.

Meanwhile, while this argument, I believe, has plenty of merit, I would also advise against taunting the police department, especially when the collection of monies is involved. What I've found is, whether we're talking about the fine for not wearing a seatbelt, a motorcycle helmet or simply going through a red light, is that it's not as much about safety as it is revenue. If the public is safe, that's all well and good; but is my going 62 miles an hour really going to endanger another 6.34 lives instead of following a diet of 55 miles an hour? The bullshit flies fast and furious no matter how fast you're driving.

The next instance of sheer stupidity involves Saturday night's UAB-Houston basketball game. During the game, Houston coach Tom Panders, who has a specific heart condition, became dizzy, fell to his knees and subsequently collapsed. At some point during this episode, the referees for the game assumed that Panders was mocking or complaining about them, so they issued him a technical foul. Subsequently, he was taken off the court -- wearing an oxygen mask -- on a stretcher. I certainly can't fault the refs' initial reaction to what they thought was mockery from a coach -- although Panders' name is far from the incessant, regular finger-pointing and mocking of a guy like Bobby Knight, as an example -- but once they saw the guy was undergoing a legitimate health crisis -- to the point that he might have died as a result of the episode -- it would have made a modicum of sense to, perhaps, rescind the technical foul call and delay the game for five minutes until order -- and, hopefully, Panders' health -- was reinstated.

Alas, no such luck. The referees refused to rescind the technical, despite all the evidence and logic suggesting that should be their course of action. UAB's "Squeaky" Johnson nailed both free throws, and UAB went on to win the game 82-79. If the two T's hadn't been rung up, it would have been a one-point game, thus proving the referees are not only blind, but stupid as well. It's one thing for a referee to claim "I didn't see it" -- it's another for him to be such an idiot that he saw it yet still managed to fuck it up.


Last on today's stupid agenda is that stupidity which is sight unseen. I'm talking about quasi-spam and the idiots who chase it.

About two weeks ago, I made two attempts via e-mail to contact a friend I hadn't spoken to in some time. She moved twice and, as a result, cycled through two new e-mail addresses before settling on the west coast and choosing the cable bohemoth Comcast as her Internet Service Provider. Since she and I last spoke, she had given me her address, which we'll refer to as "comcastsucks@comcast.net." She had sent me something in November so I replied to that e-mail and that particular address. I spent the better part of a half hour researching something on her behalf, so once I was done, I -- despite evidence contradicting same here -- whipped up a well-thought out, organized, intelligent communication.

A few minutes after, I received a Comcast bounce message -- or so I thought. I re-sent the e-mail, taking care that the e-mail address was the same as that which she'd used to send me the e-mail in November. It was.

So I fired it off yet again, not sure what the problem was but, nonetheless, hoping it would not be an ongoing issue. Sure enough, I received the same bounce message.

Since I had already spent almost 45 minutes on this, I moved onto other things and deigned to return to the problem once I had the chance. That chance came, oddly enough, the next day, when said friend logged into AIM and I noticed her. I IM'd her immediately and told her what was going on, and sure enough, the e-mail address I'd used was indeed correct.

Looking back at the two "bounced" messages, I instead realized that they weren't bounce messages but messages indicating my IP had been blacklisted by Comcast. I'm not sure why, as I don't recall the last time I sent something even remotely resembling spam. No virii, no freaky attachments, and no mass e-mails originate from here, so I sent Comcast an e-mail -- as per their advice -- requesting they remove me from their so-called list.

12 hours later, I received a response therefrom in which they told me they'd received my e-mail request but since I didn't include an IP therein they couldn't remove me from their list. Apparently this process would have to occupy another 12-hour delay before it would be solved, if ever.

So I sent them a new e-mail with the IP asking them not only to remove me but also why they decided to include my IP in their list. I haven't received a response, and I don't yet know if I've been removed from their list. However, one thing I do know is that the process has taken at least 24 hours, and since it has not yet been resolved, it seems to be an ongoing morass of masturbatory futility.

So Comcast wins my award for Institutional Stupidity.

Now, lest ye assume I am simply condemning an evil, faceless, brainless, flatulent corporate entity without forethought, I think the fight against spam can and should be fought successfully. Moreover, I am all for companies taking new, novel approaches to fight spam and otherwise inappropriate internet traffic. However -- and this is where it really gets good -- I have a sneaking feeling that my provider contains one or more people who somehow pissed off the powers that be at Comcast, and rather than intelligently going in and blocking the individual(s) responsible, they blocked my ISP, and, subsequently, made it impossible for me to communicate legitimately with their customer.

I haven't yet advised my friend of Comcast's actions, but it seems clear to me that if I was a customer of theirs and was awaiting something important -- a business e-mail, or perhaps a response in connection with a job or an important personal matter -- that was blocked randomly by a company that bills me each month, that would be the last month I'd be a customer of that company. On the one hand, as a Comcast customer, I'm pretty sure it's nice not to have to deal with spam in any way, shape or form; however, it must be pretty difficult and aggravating knowing that at any given time, you might not be getting e-mail that you are expecting or not expecting.

So, encountering stupidity in its many guises, whether in person or in corporate form, is equally, and significantly, disconcerting. There is stupidity everywhere: in our government, our office, our supermarket, and even online. So rather than let it annoy, anger or frustrate you, be sure to let the offending moron -- be it a person, a company, or an entire nation -- know that you're aware they're of lesser intelligence and that their actions, while offensive, are only the by-product of their ineptitude and stupidity.

Or, as Robin Williams once quipped, "Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck."

1 comment:

falseaffection said...

Your comment on Greek Tragedy resonated with me. I just wanted to let you know that you're insight was appreciated.