We’re Stupid. It’s Our Policy.

“Can I see your ID?”
“I’m sure I’m flattered, but surely you can see by the grey in my beard that I’ve passed the tender age of 21.”
“Well, I know, but we have to card everyone.”
“But you’re wasting my time, and the time of those standing in line, right there (shooting a glance).”
“It’s the store policy, and I could be fired.
“Well, better stupid than fired…I guess.”

(An exchange between me and a grocery-store cashier about five years ago in the midst of a crisis; there was a party going on and we had run out of adult beverages.) At the point of this exchange, the clerk in question became so outraged that she called the store manager. I left my pending purchases on the conveyor, went to the Payless Drugstore next door, and completed the desired transaction in normal fashion.

For those unable to grasp the underlying principles and objects worthy of note in the above, the most they’ll be able to apprehend is my seeming cruelty. Well, if you think that’s cruel, I give you a classic Beck.

When I read that the other day, I emailed Billy and thanked him for the inspiration. I had intended to write about my own experience with incompetent dish installers—when on the second install day, and the second set of “technicians,” I finally mounted the ladder, asked them to leave, and tuned in the dish myself. But no sooner had I contrived the outline to that story than I lost interest. Then I read this masterpiece of insight by Beck today. Read it.

Try to understand, ladies & gentlemen: “zero tolerance” actually means zero thought.

Ever since I first head the inane slogan “zero tolerance,” I have referred to it as self-imposed stupidity. Being a citizen of humanity entails certain prerequisites, among which are the identification of facts, the integration of context, the exercise of thought, and subsequent evaluation to judgment. Zero tolerance is concerned only with out-of-context facts and summary judgment. It masquerades as “objective,” but in actuality is a most pernicious form of raw animalism. It is inhumanity at its core.

And observe what it begets. It begets people who are incompetent not only at their jobs, but as human beings. It all ties together. That store clerk and those school officials all take refuge in the same excuse (“just doing my job”) and default on the same quality that is fundamental to being human (“thinking”).

As for the dish installers, well, I hope they’ll be alright–which is why I shamed those who came to my house, and why Beck so chastised the guy who came to his. What they got from us is exactly what they needed, and if they’re made of anything at all, they’ll be ready the next time.

I often think back to that exchange with the store clerk and wonder if she got it. See, I really do care.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.

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