How do I trust thee? Let me get a ruler…

Today, I accidentally contemplated the concept of trust.

It started off so innocently.  I was talking with one of my coworkers about a third coworker, and my friend joked, “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”  It’s one of those sayings I’ve heard all my life, and never really given it a second thought.

Until today.

When did trust start being measured in terms of distance?  It seems rather capricious to associate trust with how far you can throw someone.  “How much can we trust Bob on this?”  “Oh, about 2 feet 8 inches, I would guess.”  The implications are troubling:

  • Does this mean I can trust my friend’s 5-year old son Christopher more than his mother?
  • Am I automatically less trustworthy than I was in second grade?
  • Are karate black belts and Olympic shot putters especially gullible compared to the general public?  And did they just become more trusting over time?  (Disclaimer: Do not take advantage of karate black belts.  You’ll be sorry.)
  • If we’re watching the game, and I go into the kitchen to get some pretzels, do I become less trustworthy?  Do you?  Is trust relativistic like time, where it depends on whose frame of reference is moving?  And what if I come back without pretzels?  Should you trust me more because I’m within your throwing range, even if I lied about getting snacks?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like the way that guy’s looking at me.  I’m going to go lift weights until I can trust him.

Customer service

Like most people, I occasionally have problems with customer service.  Unlike most people, I rarely have problems with customer service people.  This is largely because I don’t give them problems.

Let me tell you a story.  (Pretty please?)  A number of years ago, I was coming home from a business trip to the Boston area.  It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and the airport was packed.  When I got to my gate, most flights out of Logan were cancelled due to storms all through the Midwest grounding the planes we were planning to use to leave.  (Interesting science fact: If you have enough storms in the Midwestern United States, you can cause a butterfly in South America to flap its wings.  This is one of the less useful aspects of chaos theory.)

Anyway, the lack of outgoing planes forced all of us to rebook our fights.  This was in the days before ubiquitous smartphones, so we had to stand in line.  The person in front of me was not a happy camper.  He stood at the reservation desk and screamed at the woman trying to change his flight.  She kept trying to calm him down, to no avail.  (This was also before misbehaving in an airport elicited the helpful attention of the TSA.)  Eventually, he shut up and went away, and it was my turn.  I had never been to Boston before, so I had the following conversation with the reservation clerk: Continue reading

Kids think the darndest thoughts

As a class, the best people in the world are children between the ages of 4 and 8.  I love them because their little brains are starting to understand the whats of the world around them, but not the hows and whys.  This is why I absolutely adore the AT&T commercials with the kids discussing the merits of smartphones.  I particularly like the kid who wants to make is grandmother faster by taping a cheetah to her back.

I first experienced this myself years ago.  I used to occasionally babysit for a friend who had a 5-year old son named Christopher.  Christopher and I had many entertaining (to me) adventures together.

The first time I sat for him, he forced me to watch his favorite movie du jour, a dreadful children’s adventure called “3 Ninjas”.  The plot involved 3 brothers who were in fact not ninjas, but had taken some martial arts classes.  Sort of a “Jim Henson’s Karate Kid Babies”.  Christopher had seen this movie approximately 100 times, so he insisted we watch it again.  In one dramatic scene, some bullies (if the brothers were ninjas, these bullies would qualify as yakuza) steal our heroine Emily’s bike (probably to sell on the black market).  At this point, Christopher turned to me and asked, “What’s gonna happen now?”  Remember, I had never seen the movie.  Christopher had it practically memorized.  Given the sheer ridiculousness of his question, I turned to Christopher and said, “The bullies are probably going to sell Emily’s bike and go buy ice cream with the money.”  Christopher turned to me with a horrified look on his face and said, “Nuh-uh!!!”.  Not “No, John, you’re wrong!”.  He was saying, “That better not happen!!”  I calmed him down by saying, “Let’s watch and see.”  Sure enough, the ninjas infiltrated the yakuza lair and retrieved the stolen property.  As the dreck continued, I started to realize what had happened.  Christopher had watched this movie over and over, and the same thing always happened, but he had never watched the movie with me.  He thought that I was changing what would happen, and he didn’t like my changes.  He hadn’t internalized the idea that movies don’t change after they’re made.

Unless the hero shoots first in the cantina scene.