Friday, February 13, 2015

Stupidity knows no bounds.

Today in my Immunology in Health and Disease  class, a peer asked a question that was a bit dumb in the sense that had he done the required reading, even if he hadn't known the exact answer, he could have asked a more pertinent question that would not so blatantly have exposed the fact that he either hadn't attempted the reading or was stoned or drunk when he read it. His normal words and actions are not indicative of a person of sub-normal intellect, so I would not write his question off to outright stupidity.

What he asked was a question pertaining to how leukemia in its various forms differs from aplastic anemia.  To someone who hasn't studied biology somewhat intensively , it might seem to be a logical enough question, but anyone who had covered the assigned reading should have known that the only commonalities between the two conditions are the  a) they both pertain to blood [DUH!] and b) as they both pertain to blood, both conditions quite likely have their onset in a person's bone marrow. 

In fairness to the student who asked the question, he had been dinged somewhat in an end-of-quarter evaluation concerning his lack of participation in lecture/discussion classes. I understood his concern and his sense of urgency, but still, a smart seventh grader in a life science course could have come up  with a more cogent question than the one he had asked. 

As our professor was staring somewhat dumbfoundedly at the normally at least passably informed if taciturn student, and as most of us were bracing ourselves for the tirade we expected to hear pertaining to students who don't complete their required readings, the ill-prepared student was saved by the class idiot, of whom I have written in a previous blog.

Ignoring or misreading the look of utter disgust on the professor's face, the winner of the Miss Missing Cerebrum Pageant of 2015 continued the previous questioner's line of questioning, but stupefying the matter further than previously believed to be possible. "Yeah, I wondered about that, too," she added. (This particular professor detests slang, as in yeah in place of yes.)  "And what I've really been wonderin'  about "[she also has a habit of dropping g's]  "is just what white blood cells or red blood cells or sickle cells or any of them have to do with people stealing things?"

By this time, the professor's jaw was hanging halfway to the lectern. Other students appeared equally confused. The only student I noticed whose expression did not indicate overwhelming discombobulation was the student who had asked the original question. He knew that he had screwed up, and he was glad that the floodlight, at least temporarily, had been removed from directly upon him. 

I've mentioned before that my mom is both an educational psychologist and a licensed clinical psychologist.  My brother and I have spent a lifetime of having to put up with her attempting to crawl inside our brains to figure out what it was we were thinking whenever we did or said whatever it was that we did or said. Consequently, having been the victim of such psychological intrusion on such a regular basis,  I've become more adept than the average layperson at doing the same thing myself. I gave my best shot, difficult as it was,  to place myself in the the mindset of a person whose IQ might very well not be as high as a number representing the temperature of a person with moderate to severe hypothermia. What could she have been thinking? The answer came actually so quickly that it  bothered me a bit, as in were my own thought processes beginning to resemble those of  the arguably least intelligent person in history ever to have been admitted to medical school?  

Seriously, even the doctors back in the days before they deduced that they should wash their hands before performing surgery or delivering babies had to have been smarter than this bimbo.  The thought that my brain might have anything in common with hers could give me nightmares -- and I already have a plethora of sources for nightmares.

I raised my hand. The professor weakly uttered, "What could you possibly have to add to this discussion, Alexis?"

"With all due respect, Dr. XYZ " [I always begin every comment with "with all due respect,"  even when what I have to say is with no respect whatsoever. I got it from some character on this TV show The White Shadow, from the '70's that my dad used to watch repeats from all the time. I've been saying it in class since about seventh grade. It's my trademark, and my classmates would have tonic-clonic seizures or cardiac arrest if I ever spoke in class without first speaking the phrase.] "I think she's confusing hemophilia with kleptomania."

"Someone, PLEASE, tell me this conversation didn't just happen in my class," the professor said.  She shoved her notes into her portfolio, picked it up from a chair next to the lecturn,  and stomped out the door of the stage area of the auditorium-style classroom as well as she could in stilettos. She left to dead silence in the room, which was broken only when the Rosa's Law classification case spoke.

The sub-moron defended herself. "They sound alike, you know.  Tell me not one of you has ever confused those two words."

One normally very quiet guy (his parents, both of whom are surgeons,  are from India, but he was born in the U. S., not that any of it really matters;  I'm merely trying to give you a visual; he dresses like any other guy in the class and speaks standard west-coast English when he speaks at all in our presence; I have no clue as to what he speaks to his parents) said in the flattest voice imaginable, "Not one of us has ever confused those two words."

The cognitively challenged student ran from the room crying. After a respectable interval of maybe ten seconds, the entire class burst into raucous laughter. The most intelligent of the class clowns (my brother is probably the third most intelligent of the class clowns) got up to fist bump the guy who had answered the brain dead classmate's challenge. I considered following the woman and trying to console her, but what could I say? "You were just born stupid. It's not really your fault. Maybe you should  try being a crossing guard," except that I didn't want to bear any responsibility for what happened when she held the green "GO" sign up to the cars as she sent a line of children across the street. Just imagining the scene horrified me.

The professor reentered the  room and again took her place at the lectern, at which point the laughter stopped as abruptly as it had begun.  She opened her mouth to speak twice, but no sound came out.  Bravely or foolishly, I raised my hand again. "What could you possibly have to add to this discussion, Alexis?" the professor asked as she found her voice.

"With all due respect," I began as everyone I could see including the professor rolled their eyes, "I have a question. Actually, I have three questions. May I ask them?" Anyone who has read my earlier blog about the class sub-moron may be able to guess my three questions, as I alluded to them in that blog.

"Go ahead, Alexis. Ask your questions," she responded,  "but you've already expressed your due respect, so skip it this time, please."

"OK, "I began. That's one reason I like to start all classroom utterances with "with all due respect." Otherwise I end up starting with something so lame as "OK."  "To whom is she related? Or on whom does she have major dirt? Or with whom did she sleep? Nothing else could really explain her presence here."

The room was as silent as it had been when the professor reentered. Finally the professor  spoke. "I really don't know." She paused. "I'm through for today. If you haven't thoroughly read yesterday's assigned readings, read them. And read today's just as thoroughly. You will be quizzed on them in both oral and written form tomorrow. I will have no mercy." She gathered her belongings in a more poised and orderly manner than she had the previous time she exited the room, then turned and walked out the door.

"I have the whole damned book and every assigned journal article  outlined and practically  memorized," I said to anyone within earshot. (I only say "with all due respect" when class is in session.) "I'm going for a run."

"So do I. I have my shoes and running shorts in my locker. I'll meet you in ten minutes in front of the building," said the guy who had told the bimbo that not one of us had ever made the mistake of confusing the terms hemophilia and kleptomania.

It was a good run. We kept  decent pace but still were able to carry on a conversation. He actually talks, apparently, when he's not in class or a study group.

Raoul looked a bit jealous. 


  1. p.S. When I aomeday actually write a novel, i will find a way to work in the idiocy of confusing kleptomania with hemophilia.

    1. What a funny post! I knew a guy in high school who had aplastic anemia and had to be treated at NIH in Bethesda. He didn't live long.

      Your question to the prof reminds me of the time I asked my social work professor why prostitution is illegal. Why should it be illegal to sell something that is perfectly legal to give away?

      And I remember The White Shadow... I bet I'd enjoy talking to your dad.

    2. My cousins recently lost a close family friend to aplastic anemia. i believe she was twelve. It's a bit on the rare side, so not tons of $ gets pushed into researching it. I don't want any serious illness, but if I get one, I hope it's one of the "popular" ones into which much governmental and private funding has been poured for research purposes. The peeor child my cousin knew had her first symptom in February and died in August, almost six months to the day. She went t the best hospitals, but not enough was known about how to treat it. It's not quite an "orphan illness" so to speak, but it's rare enough that it doesn't get quite enough the attention nor its sufferers quite enough of anything they deserve.

      My dad is a hoot. I loved him as a child - almost all the time, anyway. Now, as an adult, I very much like him as well.

  2. I am not entirely surprised by this, to be honest.

    Remember, you're only practicing medicine, you don't actually have to know anything... or, at least that is what a doctor told me before he quit my case. As crazy as that is. All joking aside, hopefully she improves, or moves.

    1. Becca, our only hope is that whoever her connection is has limits to his or her power. There's no hope for her as a physician. I'd hate even to see her as a phlebotomist. it will be a cold day in hell before she ever gets near one of my veins with a syriinge.