Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, Common Sense is a mythical creature that just alludes so many of us. But spending so much time in another culture has helped me to realize that common sense is actually almost purely based on previous experience and not on anything that is inherently “obvious.” It’s true, I still regularly do idiotic things that Florian audibly gasps about in astonishment (because, you know, it was so obvious!) but I’m feeling less and less guilty about my mistakes.
Examples, you say? You want examples? I’ve got plenty. Remember when the bus drove by me because I stood at the exact same place I had been dropped off earlier, but that obviously a bus going in the other direction would pick people up on the other side of the road? What about when I couldn’t open my gas tank for about 10 minutes because it was locked and I couldn’t figure out how to unlock it? And has anyone else made it to 29 years old without ever having made a pot of coffee before (what do you mean I have to grind my own beans??).
But take just last week for example. I went to work at Florian’s foundry because they needed some manual-labor help screwing together a few (thousand) little metal parts. After I
threw a temper tantrum and tried to refuse to help happily volunteered to help, I pranced into the office in the morning looking great and ready to start working. Here is the dialogue that ensued:
F: What are you wearing?
L: (confused) What? It’s not that cold out. I’m dressed warmly enough. Is that what you mean?
F: I mean, why are you wearing a silk shirt? You’re going to do dirty hand work.
L: Don’t you guys wear, like, a smock or an apron or something?
F: No. And even if you were going to wear something we have here, it wouldn’t fit because it’s built for large men.
F: And why did you wear high heels?
L: (sheepishly) Because I thought we would be sitting to do the work? (defiantly) I mean, the checkout ladies at the grocery store even get to sit! That would only be fair labor practices to let me sit!
F: (eye roll) Next time you need to think about this a little longer
But here’s the truth – I could have thought about this until the cows came home and I still wouldn’t have known to dress down and wear comfortable shoes!! Why? Because it wasn’t “obvious” to me how the work would be done. Yes, in hindsight of course it is obvious (like the words manual labor at a foundry shouldn’t have been the dead giveaway??). Sidenote: I often try to blame things like this on Florian and his lack of communication. He often tries to blame me because I lack common sense. I still think I’m right.
Pause for this hilarious image I found on Google:
This example isn’t the worst of my common sense lapses by any means. In fact, it’s barely even noteworthy when compared to my best moments but it happened and I had hours of downtime immediately afterwards while mindlessly screwing together metal to think and stew over this common sense issue.
And then I started asking other people about their worst common sense moments. Turns out, we’re all hopelessly stupid!! I felt better as I asked friends, family members, co-workers and they shared deliciously awkward moments in front of boyfriends and kids and bosses. I won’t bring them down with me in public shame
But I’d say this: take this simple Swiss “common sense” quiz I’ve created and see how much common sense you’d have if you moved here.
1. This speed limit sign tells you that the speed limit is no longer 50k/h (50 crossed out). So, what’s the new speed limit?
2. You want to buy both baking soda and baking powder (two different baking ingredients) at the grocery store. What do you buy?
3. You’re standing and waiting for the city tram. It pulls up to your stop but the doors don’t open. How do you get on the tram?
4. What is the difference in meaning between these two signs?
Do you have any lack-of-common-sense stories you want to share? C’mon, make us all feel a little better and leave it in the comments below. We’ll only judge you slightly.