Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How Stuff Works for the Highly Educated

I have a whole lot of friends with Masters Degrees.  Some with PhD's.  There are jokes about how too many letters after your name can cause all of your common sense to erode.  You get totally focused on one area and everything else just disappears out of your head.  There are also numerous jokes about how people with Higher education experience might be able to get across complex ideas, but have no idea how to air up a tire.  Most of these are pokes and exaggerations, but sometimes...well, sometimes you run across someone who reinforces these stereotypes.

While my full time real work is being an artist and writer, I haven't been able to pull in enough income yet to quit my day job.  To make certain I can pay all the bills, I still have an 8 to 5 desk job.  At a University.

My official title is Staff Assistant II, although my fancy business cards that my superior ordered label me as Admin.Asst./Receptionist.  Interesting, isn't it? Administrative Assistants get paid WAY MORE than I do.

Anyhoo, I've decided that there might be a need for a "How Stuff Works in Your Department" post now and then for some of the folks I encounter at this day job.  It started with the antiquated and ancient boiler system we have in this building.  Apparently all 100+ M.A. and PhD.'s have no understanding of a boiler or how one works.  Despite some of them being so ancient I'm pretty sure they witnessed the invention of the wheel.

Now, it's not even necessarily that I believe everyone should know exactly how every gizmos works, although admittedly I am shocked at how incredibly uneducated these people are when it comes to things that are pretty much commonplace and all around them on a daily basis.  

The thing that really gets me is when they come to you in a huff or panic and you try to calmly explain to them why what they want to happen is impossible or unnecessary and you try to explain to them why by educating them.  They are educators, right?  They will appreciate knowledge, correct? No.

Today I had someone come to me and strongly suggest I call the Physical Plant for a loose Fire Alarm.  Sounds reasonable.  So I go look.  The mounting screws had simply pulled loose from the wall.  It just needed remounted, which was no biggie and an easy fix.  So I fixed it.  That, however wasn't good enough for this person.  They wanted me to "call it in".  

Let me stop right here and explain something that some of you might not understand.  I know a few of you who read my blog are Professors.  Every time I call someone to come fix something the Department gets charged.  It's like $60 an hour or something crazy.  So, if I can fix it myself, I do.  $60 for some loose screws seems a little silly to me.

Now, back to the story.  I tried to assure this person, who had now felt the need to involve another person as back up, that there was no need to worry.  The electricity had not been cut and the line was not damaged.  It simply needed remounted.  The mounting screws had no impact on the inner working of the actual alarm.  If the power had been cut to it or if there was any interruption in the power to the unit, we would have known immediately.  That's what makes a fire alarm sound.  When you pull the lever down, it interrupts the electric current and that interruption causes the firebox to recognize there is something wrong and to start the beeps and flashing lights that let people know to get out.

Instead of listening, now this person and his sidekick begin to talk over me and insist that it must be broken and I should call it in.  I just smiled, said "It's fine.  The electric line wasn't damaged.  It just needed remounted." and walked away.  The angry sidekick had to get the last word and shouted loudly down the hall, "Well, I hope there isn't a fire!"


If there was, that would set off the alarm in a different way.  Not to mention, that seriously, the mounting frame and screws have absolutely nothing to do with the functionality of the alarm.  

I couldn't help but think of those PhD and Master's jokes.  I shook my head and returned to my desk.

So, in the future, when I get befuddled by the lack of understanding and talked over and completely disrespected, I am going to write a post about it.  Maybe you guys can help me understand why people don't want to listen or understand.  

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