The idiot

Who is the idiot with a clipboard? I don’t know. The real problem is that he’s almost certainly not an idiot, but a really smart guy.

There is a particular kind of irrational behavior that seems to be part of human or organizational nature. That the people involved are serious, capable professionals in positions of significant responsibility does not make a difference. Here are some fictionalized but truthy dialogues:

Serious Responsible Man who should know what he’s doing: “Hey Mister Wizard, thanks for coming over.”

Young Wizard: “No problem; what’s up?”

SRM: “This package might contain an infernal engine of enormous destructive power.”

YW: “Okay, I’ll take a look. You’ll need to evacuate this floor, and the floors above and below.”

SRM: “Oh, we don’t want to do that.”

YW: “?”

SRM: “It’s probably just the new filing cabinet.”

YW: “Okay, well, call if you need…”

SRM: “Wait, where are you going? Aren’t you going to open it?”

YW: “What for?”

SRM: “It might be an infernal engine of enormous destructive power!”

YW: “Then evacuate the floors like I said.”

SRM: “We don’t want to do that.”

YW: “Then open it yourself.”

SRM: “But you’re the wizard!”

YW: “Then take my advice; evacuate the floors!”

SRM: “But…”

You get the point. Examples abound. Here’s another:

Not a rocket scientist: “Why are you wearing Full Impermeable double-layer Armor, plus 2 Against Lethal Miasma?”

A real rocket scientist: “The area may be contaminated with a class IV lethal miasma!”

NARS: “Then why are you not wearing the Helm of Respiratory Protection?”

ARRS: “It makes me feel like I’m suffocating, and there’s probably not any contamination.”

NARS: “Then take off the armor.”

ARRS: “There might be contamination!”

NARS: “Then put on your Helm of Respiratory Protection!”

et cetera

But of course the military is not subject to this kind of irrationality, right? So one would ever see, for instance, an experienced senior NCO walking around in, for example, poison ivy, buck naked except for a gas mask, carrying a scrub brush and a bucket of, say, calamine lotion. But if you ever do see such a thing, the line to take is not that it’s pointless to wear a gas mask while walking around naked in poison ivy, but that it’s inappropriate for a senior NCO to do cleanup. That’s a more effective argument.

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