Sunday, December 23, 2018

Good People, Preliminary Terrors, Go Enjoy

Today at my local recreational swimming pool, I witnessed a good person. A customer had asked the new, nervous cashier to load money onto his Rec Card, and the cashier was having a terrible time of it. He was wide-eyed and slightly sweaty and stuttering and explaining that they moved to a new system and he was trained on it once two months ago but this was his first time trying to do it live and he really didn’t want to screw it up but it just wasn’t working. He kept apologizing profusely, and just looked miserable. The customer said that it was no big deal at all, man, I’ll just pay cash for today, and all of these new systems are badly designed and non-intuitive, and seriously don’t worry about it. It’s better I pay cash. The customer worked very hard to help the cashier save face and not feel embarrassed or incompetent. It was a small moment, but a sweet one. I vote for more of that in the world.

I came across something interesting on Twitter the other day. It was a screenshot from a calculous textbook written in 1910, depicting some sort of math concept. It was not the math concept that captivated me, but the quite comforting narrative that preceded it. The chapter was titled “To Deliver You from the Preliminary Terrors,” and the author gently eased into things with the following introduction:

"The preliminary terror, which chokes off most fifth-form boys from even attempting to learn how to calculate, can be abolished once for all by simply stating what is the meaning--in common sense terms--of the two principle symbols that are used in calculating."

I like that the author was being thoughtful about the hapless fifth-form boys and their terror of the maths, and sought to deliver them from it with an clear explanation. That was very considerate of him. Since it’s Christmas time and all, in the spirit of grace and cheer, here is a list of preliminary terrors that I shall deliver you from:

It’s probably not cancer, and even if it is, they have lots of ways of fixing that up now.

Sinkholes are rare.

So are serial killers.

There are no venomous snakes native to Seattle.

You’re prepared, and it’s going to go off swimmingly.

No one is going to notice that. You don’t need to be self-conscious about it.

The airline industry is one of the safest in the world.

Your child is more resilient than you think.

You still have time. Go do it!

You won’t choke to death alone in your apartment if you chew your food carefully.

People want to help.

You will always be loved.

I hope that helps! Go enjoy whatever you celebrate this time of year, and try not to alienate your relatives over stupid stuff. You know what I’m talking about.

--Kristen McHenry

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