Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. How Can You Not Know This?

 

shutterstock_172810082I have a peculiar area of expertise: I know a lot about death. Well, more precisely, I know more than the average person about bereavement, especially sudden, violent bereavement. I have come by this through my own losses, dedicated study, and, especially, through nearly 15 years of experience as a law enforcement chaplain. Law enforcement officers often have the sad duty of performing what is known as “death notification,” and it is one they gladly hand off to the chaplain whenever possible. It is one of the subjects I teach at our academy.

A few years ago, I began to receive invitations from members of the medical profession who wished to learn more about death notification. The first time the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Surgeons asked me to address their meeting, I was puzzled. After all, these were doctors: highly educated professionals that must regularly (if reluctantly) come face-to-face with death. “Don’t you know more about this than I do?” I asked.

Apparently not. So I went and spoke about the very early stages of bereavement: the first seconds, minutes, hours after news of a loved one’s decease has been transmitted. And as the assembled surgeons nodded, took notes, and intelligently asked what seemed to me pretty basic questions, I kept thinking how can you not know this? 

We know what we know. And once our knowledge has been integrated into our mental processes, it becomes difficult to return to the time when we didn’t know it. Once you’ve learned to read, for example, you can’t not read a passing road sign, a phenomenon that has inspired some truly idiotic educational theories.

And when you encounter someone who seems like a reasonably intelligent, educated person who has no grasp whatever of information that seems essential for living a normal life, let alone having or voicing a political opinion, it just seems bizarre. How can you not know this?

I gave two Ricochetti that disorienting feeling the other day, when I posted my (passionate) opinion on healthcare reform. My new friends, with whom I had happily conversed on other issues, found themselves having to kindly explain how insurance works…in terms a third-grader might understand. Though I couldn’t see their faces, I’m quite sure they were staring at their computer screens thinking: How can she not know this? 

One of my correspondents wrote: “Kate, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you just spend your time with people who don’t think like [other Ricochetti] and I do, because you are obviously quite intelligent enough to have already understood our viewpoint.”

I’m sure that if we were having the conversation in person, her voice would have in it the same despair with which my dear husband inquires how it is that I can have lived in our house for 10 years and not know where the furnace is?!

So okay, Ricochetti: What areas of ignorance encountered in others (here or elsewhere) cause you that heart-sinking dismay? And what blank spots on your own mental map would you confess to? 

There are 161 comments.

  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think everyone’s brain is fairly well compartmentalized – home, work, and areas of interest. We all can expound upon the minutae of our work. God knows I do, probably much to the eye-rolling consternation of the people around here who tolerate my postings about it. My mind is like a poorly packed trunk. I’ve spilled its contents on the floor so many times I can’t seem to get it organized enough to fit much new in there.

    • #1
    • March 8, 2015, at 7:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Stad Thatcher

    Kate Braestrup:So okay, Ricochetti: What areas of ignorance encountered in others (here or elsewhere) cause you that heart-sinking dismay? And what blank spots on your own mental map would you confess to?

    Let me answer your first question first. It’s not so much ignorance that drives me crazy, it’s willful ignorance. For example, my daughters (all in their early twenties) leave shoes on or at the bottom of the steps leading from the laundry room down into the garage. I point out that this is a tripping hazard, not to do it, yet they persist. They aren’t being stubborn, they just simply refuse to believe that what they’re doing is unsafe.

    As for me, I have no shortcomings other than being the most modest person on the planet. Nonetheless, my thing of being willfully ignorant is not knowing, or caring, or wanting to have anything to do with things I have no use for – and I’m happy to be this way! For example, I do not use Facebook, Twitter, LinedIn, Flickr . . . anything that typically has an icon at the bottom of a web site. They don’t do anything for me, so I don’t waste my time learning about them or how to use them. Some of my friends accuse me of being afraid of technology, but I point out that I have an iPod, iPhone 5c, a Kindle, a laptop, Netflix, Amazon Prime video, and so forth. Heck, I even build my own desktop computers! Yet, I don’t know how to operate my washer & dryer because they have more controls, settings, and features than the Cessnas I used to fly. Go figure.

    No, ignorance is merely the lack of knowledge. Willful ignorance is the real issue, and it can be for good or bad, depending on the circumstances.

    For the record, my wife would not let me do our laundry even if our washer and dryer did have the old-style controls . . .

    • #2
    • March 8, 2015, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Cato Rand Coolidge

    The TV remotes. Definitely.

    And Stad, laundry is easy if you just use the on/off dial, and ignore all the settings on the assumption that whoever set them the way they are probably knew what they were doing.

    Also, medicine. I don’t mean the economics of medicine, or how insurance works. I’ve got a decent layman’s grasp of those things. I mean the actual physiology/biology or whatever it’s called. Mr. Rand is finishing up his CRNA certficate and every day he comes home and tells me about his day — in Sanskrit or whatever tongue they use in hospitals. The only thing I’ve really learned from listening to these disquisitions is not to trust medical practitioners. They have a way of hiding complete ignorance behind impressive words. How many of you know that “ideopathic” is just a fancy word for “we have no idea why.”

    • #3
    • March 8, 2015, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Geography. Ever since the 6th grade, the mere mention of the word makes my brain shut down. I blame my 6th grade teacher, btw.

    • #4
    • March 8, 2015, at 8:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    Cato,
    That’s odd, because my nurse practitioner and surgical first assist training has all been done in cuneiform, not Sanskrit.

    Regarding the OP and the surgeons who seemed at a loss about death, I’m not surprised. Surgeons are like mechanics or engineers- they see the mechanics of the body and how to fix it. Surgeons also don’t have as much interaction with patients long term the way nurses or doctors on the medicine side do. Those providers are often more adept at dealing with grieving families. Having to tell families that their mom or dad has passed is one the most awkward conversations I have. Not because I’m not empathetic about their loss, but because keeping the line between professionally empathetic and sharing in their grief is hard to toe, so those of us in healthcare often err on the side to cool detachment. It’s not healthy for us to share in a family’s sorrow.

    • #5
    • March 8, 2015, at 9:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Son of Spengler Contributor

    I have trouble understanding how fully functioning adults don’t understand personal finance — insurance, loans, checking accounts. I’m always surprised when I have to explain to a middle-aged parent of teenagers how a check really works.

    Meanwhile, I have no mechanical background whatsoever. I have only the most rudimentary understanding of how my car’s engine, transmission, brakes, etc. work.

    • #6
    • March 8, 2015, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    Vicryl Contessa:Cato, That’s odd, because my nurse practitioner and surgical first assist training has all been done in cuneiform, not Sanskrit.

    Regarding the OP and the surgeons who seemed at a loss about death, I’m not surprised. Surgeons are like mechanics or engineers- they see the mechanics of the body and how to fix it. Surgeons also don’t have as much interaction with patients long term the way nurses or doctors on the medicine side do. Those providers are often more adept at dealing with grieving families. Having to tell families that their mom or dad has passed is one the most awkward conversations I have. Not because I’m not empathetic about their loss, but because keeping the line between professionally empathetic and sharing in their grief is hard to toe, so those of us in healthcare often err on the side to cool detachment. It’s not healthy for us to share in a family’s sorrow.

    That “line” is exactly the one I try to teach law enforcement officers to safely negotiate…but nobody likes it. There’s a reason they’re so thrilled when the chaplain can do it for them.

    I’ve given the same talk to medical students, doctors and nurses of various kinds including cancer care providers, hospital chaplains, hospice volunteers and EMTs, and it is wonderfully comforting to me —who is pretty fearless when it comes to, say, coping with the aftermath of a drowning, but is scared of hospitals—to know that people like you are going to be there when I need you. It has also been a lot of fun to discover how much surgeons, for example, really have in common with cops.

    • #7
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Songwriter:Geography. Ever since the 6th grade, the mere mention of the word makes my brain shut down. I blame my 6th grade teacher, btw.

    Wild, when there’s a geography category on Jeopardy, I always nail it. But that’s not the funny part. I too blame my sixth grade teacher. Sister Adele. 110 years old and all spit and vinegar with a ruler in her hand. She was a sweet old lady underneath though and she really knew how to teach.

    • #8
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:32 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Vicryl Contessa:Cato, That’s odd, because my nurse practitioner and surgical first assist training has all been done in cuneiform, not Sanskrit.

    Regarding the OP and the surgeons who seemed at a loss about death, I’m not surprised. Surgeons are like mechanics or engineers- they see the mechanics of the body and how to fix it.

    Mr. Rand says most of them don’t even see the other medical stuff going on — just what they’re carving on. That’s why they need anesthesia in the room. The patient could bleed out or arrest or aspirate (ok, I’ve picked up a few terms, I admit it) and the surgeon wouldn’t know it most of the time.

    • #9
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:36 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    Son of Spengler:I have trouble understanding how fully functioning adults don’t understand personal finance — insurance, loans, checking accounts. I’m always surprised when I have to explain to a middle-aged parent of teenagers how a check really works.

    Meanwhile, I have no mechanical background whatsoever. I have only the most rudimentary understanding of how my car’s engine, transmission, brakes, etc. work.

    Here, I’ll give you—free of charge—the benefit of my experience: it turns out that when the little icon of an oil can lights up on your dashboard display, you have to deal with that right away. I mean, right away. Who knew? Where do they teach these things?

    I am now the proud owner of an old Subaru with a…sigh… new and very expensive engine…

    • #10
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:37 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Son of Spengler:I have trouble understanding how fully functioning adults don’t understand personal finance — insurance, loans, checking accounts. I’m always surprised when I have to explain to a middle-aged parent of teenagers how a check really works.

    Meanwhile, I have no mechanical background whatsoever. I have only the most rudimentary understanding of how my car’s engine, transmission, brakes, etc. work.

    I’m a lot more like you. What I know about my car’s breaks boils down to “you step on this pedal and the car stops.”

    • #11
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. John H. Member
    John H. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t understand how people who love big intrusive government are completely flummoxed by their Federal income tax. They should consider it their proud duty to master a Form 1040, especially since, as far as I can tell, their financial affairs are quite simple: a 1040EZ might work. But worse than their ignorance is the triumphant aggressiveness that comes with it. They’re not just saying, “I don’t understand this stuff” or even “I don’t need to understand this stuff” but “Someone else will pay someone else to understand this stuff for me.”

    As for my own howling mental lacunae, my flight instructors and I are all wondering about those. It ‘s not just that I misperceive situations and make faulty judgments, it’s that I don’t perceive them at all. This has got really alarming.

    • #12
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Kate Braestrup:

    Son of Spengler:I have trouble understanding how fully functioning adults don’t understand personal finance — insurance, loans, checking accounts. I’m always surprised when I have to explain to a middle-aged parent of teenagers how a check really works.

    Meanwhile, I have no mechanical background whatsoever. I have only the most rudimentary understanding of how my car’s engine, transmission, brakes, etc. work.

    Here, I’ll give you—free of charge—the benefit of my experience: it turns out that when the little icon of an oil can lights up on your dashboard display, you have to deal with that right away. I mean, right away. Who knew? Where do they teach these things?

    I am now the proud owner of an old Subaru with a…sigh… new and very expensive engine…

    I knew I liked you. We are a two Subaru family. Some of our friends accuse of being closet lesbians.

    • #13
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    It’s not that they’re not aware of what’s going on with the pt medically, but surgeons and first assists can’t have their hands in a pt’s chest ligating and anastomosing and be monitoring their CV or respiratory status at the same time- that’s what anesthesia is there for. Each person is there to play their part in the great symphony of surgery.

    • #14
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Profile Photo Member

    Re: the OP, Kate, “PREACH IT!” As a retired hospital chaplain, I would’ve been grateful to know more than I did in training about sudden, violent death than Kubler-Ross’s so-called stages – which are fluid, not sequential – anyway. Glad you’re with us!

    • #15
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Lucy Pevensie Inactive

    My big area of ignorance is sports. For example: My daughter has been a middle-school cheerleader for the last two years, which leads to my going to middle-school basketball games. When those referee or umpire people (whatever you call them) blow a whistle, I realize that it means that the kids have to stop playing for some reason, and sometimes it leads to free throws and other times not, and I know that that means that some kind of penalty has been incurred sometimes and not other times, and I simply have no idea at all what is happening. My knowledge extends only so far that I can say, “Go Eagles!” and cheer when a basket is made, but the rest of the game is entirely beyond me.

    On the other hand, my knowledge of sports exceeds that of both my father and my husband, both of whom pride themselves on not even knowing the names of the professional sports teams in cities where they live.

    • #16
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Lucy Pevensie:My big area of ignorance is sports. For example: My daughter has been a middle-school cheerleader for the last two years, which leads to my going to middle-school basketball games. When those referee or umpire people (whatever you call them) blow a whistle, I realize that it means that the kids have to stop playing for some reason, and sometimes it leads to free throws and other times not, and I know that that means that some kind of penalty has been incurred sometimes and not other times, and I simply have no idea at all what is happening. My knowledge extends only so far that I can say, “Go Eagles!” and cheer when a basket is made, but the rest of the game is entirely beyond me.

    On the other hand, my knowledge of sports exceeds that of both my father and my husband, both of whom pride themselves on not even knowing the names of the professional sports teams in cities where they live.

    I understand basketball, but your description pretty much describes how hockey looks to me, so I get it.

    • #17
    • March 8, 2015, at 10:59 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    John H.:I don’t understand how people who love big intrusive government are completely flummoxed by their Federal income tax. They should consider it their proud duty to master a Form 1040, especially since, as far as I can tell, their financial affairs are quite simple: a 1040EZ might work. But worse than their ignorance is the triumphant aggressiveness that comes with it. They’re not just saying, “I don’t understand this stuff” or even “I don’t need to understand this stuff” but “Someone else will pay someone else to understand this stuff for me.”

    As for my own howling mental lacunae, my flight instructors and I are all wondering about those. It ‘s not just that I misperceive situations and make faulty judgments, it’s that I don’t perceive them at all. This has got really alarming.

    If just reading “1040EZ” gives me palpitations, is it okay to pay someone else to do my taxes as long as I’m obsequiously grateful and apologetic?

    • #18
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Doug Watt Moderator

    Kate Braestrup:We know what we know. And once our knowledge has been integrated into our mental processes, it becomes difficult to return to the time when we didn’t know it. (Once you’ve learned to read, for example, you can’t not read a passing road sign, a phenomenon that has inspired some truly idiotic educational theories.)

    I still read the road signs. As a former police officer I still hold a cigarette in my weak hand and not my “gun hand”. When I enter a store or restaurant I scan people and employees, does everything look normal? When I knock on a friend’s door I stand to one side of the door, I never stand directly in front of the door. I never realized I was doing that until my friends and wife asked me why I had to always sit facing the door when we went to a restaurant. Old habits.

    I expressed my public grief when my parents passed away by leaving sentences unfinished and then silence. I wept in private. That’s another habit from police work and isn’t necessarily a virtue.

    • #19
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:11 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Son of Spengler Contributor

    Cato Rand:

    Kate Braestrup:

    Son of Spengler:I have trouble understanding how fully functioning adults don’t understand personal finance — insurance, loans, checking accounts. I’m always surprised when I have to explain to a middle-aged parent of teenagers how a check really works.

    Meanwhile, I have no mechanical background whatsoever. I have only the most rudimentary understanding of how my car’s engine, transmission, brakes, etc. work.

    Here, I’ll give you—free of charge—the benefit of my experience: it turns out that when the little icon of an oil can lights up on your dashboard display, you have to deal with that right away. I mean, right away. Who knew? Where do they teach these things?

    I am now the proud owner of an old Subaru with a…sigh… new and very expensive engine…

    I knew I liked you. We are a two Subaru family. Some of our friends accuse of being closet lesbians.

    We should start a Ricochet Subaru club.

    • #20
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:12 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    Cato Rand:

    Lucy Pevensie:My big area of ignorance is sports. For example: My daughter has been a middle-school cheerleader for the last two years, which leads to my going to middle-school basketball games. When those referee or umpire people (whatever you call them) blow a whistle, I realize that it means that the kids have to stop playing for some reason, and sometimes it leads to free throws and other times not, and I know that that means that some kind of penalty has been incurred sometimes and not other times, and I simply have no idea at all what is happening. My knowledge extends only so far that I can say, “Go Eagles!” and cheer when a basket is made, but the rest of the game is entirely beyond me.

    On the other hand, my knowledge of sports exceeds that of both my father and my husband, both of whom pride themselves on not even knowing the names of the professional sports teams in cities where they live.

    I understand basketball, but your description pretty much describes how hockey looks to me, so I get it.

    You sound like a great sports Mom to me…when I showed up at all, I cheered lustily when either team scored, and as soon as my own child/step-child was off the field, I immediately lost interest and went back to my knitting.

    The way I knew that my step-son had become “mine” (god help him) is that when he collided with the goalie during a soccer game, I was so focused on whether he might have scraped his shin that I didn’t even notice the poor goalie, writhing on the ground, surrounded by EMTs…

    • #21
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:12 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. AUMom Member
    AUMom Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kate, forgive the momentary hijack of the thread, are you the Kate Braestrup of Here When You Need Me? That was some book.

    And count me in as part of the Ricochet Subaru Club. I love my Subie.

    • #22
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State Blues Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Two Subarus here too. They are the best in sloppy winter weather, and lately we’ve had some of that.

    • #23
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:20 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    Doug Watt:

    Kate Braestrup:We know what we know. And once our knowledge has been integrated into our mental processes, it becomes difficult to return to the time when we didn’t know it. (Once you’ve learned to read, for example, you can’t not read a passing road sign, a phenomenon that has inspired some truly idiotic educational theories.)

    I still read the road signs. As a former police officer I still hold a cigarette in my weak hand and not my “gun hand”. When I enter a store or restaurant I scan people and employees, does everything look normal? When I knock on a friend doors I stand to one side of the door, I never stand directly in front of the door. I never realized I was doing that until my friends and wife asked me why I had to always sit facing the door when we went to a restaurant. Old habits.

    I expressed my public grief when my parents passed away by leaving sentences unfinished and then silence. I wept in private. That’s another habit from police work and isn’t necessarily a virtue.

    I got tears in my eyes at “I still hold a cigarette in my weak hand and not my “gun hand.” Keep your gun hand free—yes. And I automatically take the seat that isn’t facing the door, so the guy I’m with can have the one he wants.

    • #24
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    AUMom:Kate, forgive the momentary hijack of the thread, are you the Kate Braestrup of Here When You Need Me? That was some book.

    And count me in as part of the Ricochet Subaru Club. I love my Subie.

    Um. Yes.

    • #25
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:22 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State Blues Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    And as far as my ignorance, I have great admiration for people who are fluent in multiple languages. I have tried but the results for me are not worth the time I spent.

    • #26
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:22 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. AUMom Member
    AUMom Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kate Braestrup:

    AUMom:Kate, forgive the momentary hijack of the thread, are you the Kate Braestrup of Here When You Need Me? That was some book.

    And count me in as part of the Ricochet Subaru Club. I love my Subie.

    Um. Yes.

    I listened to it several years ago. It still haunts the way I think about a few things. Thanks.

    Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

    • #27
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Anna M. Inactive

    This one gets me odd looks on a frequent basis:

    I don’t know how to load or run a dishwasher.

    My parents were convinced that dishwashers induced laziness and rotted one’s moral fiber (like microwaved food or electric blankets). So I got used to the routine of dishwashing-by-hand as soon as I was tall enough to stand on a step-stool and dry dishes.

    The crappy little apartments I lived in during grad school had appliances dating to the 1960s (cheap gas stoves and ancient fridges with tiny metal-shoebox freezers); dishwashers were non-existent. I did live in one apartment that had a dishwasher (1970s harvest-gold; very Lileks). By that point I was so used to the dishes-by-hand routine that I used the dishwasher for storing grocery bags (plastic in the top rack, paper in the bottom rack).

    It’s a bit embarrassing when I have dinner at someone else’s house; when everyone helps clear the table, I have to keep backing away from the dishwasher so no one asks me to put anything in it. Occasionally I’m cornered and have to admit my ignorance!

    Oddly enough (or maybe not), I have several cousins who also don’t have a dishwasher or else have one and don’t use it. We rotate our holiday get-togethers, and everyone pitches in with the dishwashing at those households. It’s actually kind of fun.

    And no, my family is not Amish! (Everyone asks that, when they discover my weird little infirmity.)

    • #28
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:37 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Son of Spengler Contributor

    Anna M.:This one gets me odd looks on a frequent basis:

    I don’t know how to load or run a dishwasher.

    That reminds me…. My barbershop chorus sings Christmas music between Thanksgiving and New Year. Everyone knows the words, of course — except me. It never occurs to people that someone wouldn’t be familiar with them, and until I joined the group it never occurred to me that I was so out of touch.

    • #29
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. JoelB Member

    I never knew until recently that Subarus made a political (sexual?) statement and I have read two separate posts referring to them now on Ricochet. I always thought they were just a brand of car. In fact many years ago, the parents of one of my best friends had one of those little Subaru pickup trucks with the seats welded in the back that they made to avoid some kind of tariff (Government regulation at its best). Everyone loved the little red”Scooby-Doo”. I don’t recall anybody ever riding back there. As I recall it was a pretty good vehicle. Ah, the “things we never knew we never knew.”

    • #30
    • March 8, 2015, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • Like