Don't Be a Dick

December 10, 2012

As I write this, I’m sitting on a flight behind two men having an argument.

One, an older person, is upset because the other man is using his GameBoy (original — such a hipster) and BlackBerry during takeoff even though the flight attendants said not to use electronics. I learn that the concerned passenger, clearly a nervous and/or inexperienced flyer is a retired lawyer and is speaking to a young engineer.

The conversation went something like this:

Lawyer: Should you be using that? Please turn it off.

Engineer: (points to his iron ring) Do you know what this is? Do you know what this means?

Lawyer: No.

Engineer: What do you do for a living?

Lawyer: I am a retired lawyer.

Engineer: Well that explains it. Well-spoken, strong adherence to rules, but low technical knowledge.

Now, in typical Canadian fashion, they’ve made up and are chatting amicably.

But it points out a pretty common problem among nerds of all stripes: a lack of empathy. This older guy was clearly nervous. Turning off your GameBoy for five minutes to ease someone’s nerves isn’t going to kill you. And explaining that, now that we’ve taken off, it’s ok to use electronics is a little more personable than pointing to your iron ring.

Dear nerds: normal people have normal sensibilities so try to squeeze in a few minutes of empathy in your day. Don’t be a dick.

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