You never fully realize quite how dumb you are as when you’re unintentionally inflicting bodily harm on yourself. Needless to say, after I hit my hand with a hammer yesterday, I’ve been spinning out inside my own head.
I mean, we’re not exactly talking about a difficult job here. I was building a set of stairs for our upcoming production, and *bam*. A straight shot to the karate-chop end of my hand right below the pinky. Didn’t glance the nail, didn’t take my eye off the target; just took a bad swing. Whammo.
And I feel *so, so dumb*. Here’s a task where you know people make mistakes all the time. Carpenters — good ones, ones good enough to build a career on it! — hit their thumbs with hammers, maybe not every day, but at least often enough that if you see one with a blackened thumbnail, you don’t have to ask them what happened. You know! Driving nails is a task where the mistake is not only possible, but given enough time and enough reps, *inescapable*. So if anything, extra care should be given to the task.
Worse still: consider the location of the injury. I wasn’t holding the nail between thumb and forefinger, the classic position for the smashing of a thumb. The nail was already partly driven; I was leaning over the lumber, my hand twisted around to keep the whole wobbling structure steady. Trying to assert leverage where leverage was not leverageable. A dangerous activity in a precarious position: that calls for over-the-top ultimate doubletime caution.
Worst of all: I was demonstrating to a student who had never attempted the task how to drive nails. (Why, at 17 years old in a drama class, a student was having his first brush with driving nails is an issue I’ll leave for another time.) The “teachable moment”, a moment where I know the pressure is on and a student is more likely to remember things that happen than usual, when I’m taking on the aforementioned delicate task. A situation which demands unyielding, double-bagged-for-your-protection caution.
In other words, I looked like an idiot (to my student) while looking like an idiot (attempting the job with, let’s just say, sub-optimal methodology) while looking like an idiot (screwing up the job in the first place).
That’s stupidity cubed. That’s dumb as the proverbial bag of hammers (a cliched simile that hurts me particularly, today, to employ) to the 3rd power.
That, in other words, is very, very dumb.
And if I can be so very dumb in a situation that calls so explicitly for care, caution and attention to detail three levels deep, then how dumb am I acting in other areas of my life, where I don’t give a second thought to the possible consequences?
It’s something to think about; something to feel seriously humble about. And it’s something I’ll be reminded of again and again in the coming days, every time I reach my hand into my pocket (ouch) or try to lift anything with my left hand (yikes) or even lightly rest my hand on a tabletop (yep that hurts too). Or, y’know, when I return to the shop to finish building the aforementioned set of stairs, cuz THAT AIN’T DONE EITHER.
So now I’m curious: what acts of stupidity have made your own idiocy fully apparent to you? What deeds of dumbness have dropped the drapes of false confidence from your eyes? (I’d say I’m doing research but mostly I just want to feel better about myself.)
Related reading: the “You Are Not So Smart” Podcast.