posted by Matt W on August 17th, 2011

Last week I was training to be a Certified Energy Manager, and there was one person in the class that asked 95% of the questions and also made 95% of the statements. Unfortunately, he was a moron. The trainers had to constantly cut out pieces of information from the training because this guy kept asking questions. Not only was the training a little less in depth than it should have been but it was also irritating to move so slowly through the material. A Starbucks triple shot Americano, was the only thing that kept me awake. I have named this situation after a girl from my high school because she did it in every class I took with her. I will refer to it as the Jane Smith effect (I don’t want to offend the person I named it after). I will say that my wife, who has never met “Jane”, knows exactly what I’m talking about when I drop her name and has even used it to describe similar situations she’s been in.

There are a few different tactics that all Jane Smiths take. The first annoying tactic is just asking stupid questions all the time. In most cases, they are so stupid the teacher can’t even really answer. The tell tale sign for this tactic is the teacher responding “what I think your asking is …(followed by the implied “you f@%&ing moron”). One of my favorite commercials of all time is the ESPN commercial where a teacher is talking to the class and responds, “There is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people asking questions”. That quote perfectly summarizes tactic one.

Tactic two which is less stupid but no less annoying is the “I actually know something about a topic close to this and therefore I am going to ask a question about that other topic to look smarter.” You just hope that the teacher/manager can see through this tactic and divert as soon as possible. If you have a skilled person in charge, it is usually followed up with the “That’s an interesting point, but we should probably stay on topic” reply. Thank you smart teacher for saving me!

Tactic three and by far the most annoying is the question, statement, question, statement, question long term barrage. “So how do you calculate 2 + 2 again? … So what your saying is if I had 2 apples and added two more that would be the same thing … But what if I have two oranges instead of the second two apples? … No I don’t remember any major head trauma as a child, but you’re sure that regardless of fruit type 2 + 2 = 4?” and so on. There are other minor tactical variations, but for the most part the person using them has already established themselves as a Jane Smith with one of the above tactics so everything they say is annoying.

As I have gotten older, I wonder if maybe the Jane Smiths of the world have it figured out in a 93 IQ kind of way. If they can slow everything down to their speed, then there is no discernable difference between them and other smarter people. If you only get through half of the syllabus in English class, then Jane only has to understand and remember half the material. The original Jane Smith almost had a 4.0 GPA. If you can slow down a business meeting to the point where you only get through the first 2 points on the agenda, you’re only responsible for those two points that week at work, and so on. And as Jane has sucked the collective soul out of the group, Jane is the person with the best attitude as well “Jane sure has a great attitude about our new program, let’s promote her”.

Why can’t we just say “Shut up Jane, we’re leaving you behind,” and move on? What is so bad about doing a little “Jane Smith weeding” every now and then? Unfortunately, there are so many Jane Smiths that have made it to positions of authority now they are perfectly happy to have other Jane Smiths working with them. Maybe I could write a book detailing how this type of thing brings down society. Oh that’s right Ayn Rand already took care of that. Instead, I’ll just think up some stupid questions for my next sales meeting.

File Under Working Stiff