Posted by: zhak39 | February 27, 2010

The Dumbest Person in the Room

I told him, the dean, that I am really enjoying being the dumbest person in the room.  He’s a nice guy, tried to convince me that I was certainly not, but come on.  I told him about listening to one of our professors, note listening to, not speaking with, because if I catch one in three words, just the hint of what he is saying I’m feeling like I just aced the GREs.

“Well if you’re going to compare yourself to the top 1% of the population in IQ then….”

Yup, as part of my job, I get to listen to the most brilliant people I have ever met.  And better, I get to support what they are doing–their research, their studies, the nuts and bolts so that they can create and teach and learn and…

“We math and physics guys,” the professor told me.  “We are always dreaming.”

Through my job I get to help create the structure so that others may dream.

The other day he outlined his research for me in deep ringing Russian accented tones.  He is working on an easily accessible, inexpensive device that people can use in their homes to detect small disturbances in their heart function before it develops into heart disease.

“Then, you see,” he begins and you have to imagine the deep voice, the warm tones of his accented English, “then they can make small lifestyle change.  They can do healthy, er, healthy behavior so heart doesn’t deteriorate, they never need surgery.”

What can I say to that?  This is so innovative, so positive, it’s miraculous.

But I’m a wiseass, so I say this–

“Joseph, if you can patent convincing a person to make a lifestyle change I will invest my lifesavings in you.”

He looks at me evenly, pauses as he gives careful consideration to what I just said.

“So, if I understand,” he begins.  “You are saying that lifestyle change is based upon, er, behavior and to convince a person to make a behavior change, a person does not like to make a behavior change so to convince a person to do this, this is a very difficult thing.  So, if I understand, you are saying this thing that is very funny.  This is the joke and now we can laugh together.”

I am professional enough that although I find this delightful I can’t laugh directly in this intense brilliant researcher’s face but the tears of laughter are dripping down the back of my eyeballs and short circuiting my brain.

“Yes, Joseph, this is the joke.”


  1. That’s alright, Zhak.

    I’d have probably asked him if it went off like the Fourth of July if anybody was sexually aroused. That way, I could know where my pubescent children are at all times.

  2. Thank you, Bill, for pointing out that appropriateness is a continuum and I am not quite the wiseass that I thought.

  3. Think of it this way too —

    If I’d have been there, you would not have been the dumbest person in the room.

  4. Hee hee. Hee hee ha ha. Hee hee ha ha ha….

    You make me laugh. It is a joke, yes?

  5. I can’t ever remember a time when I felt intellectually superior in your presence. More like a slobbering lunatic in need of help to find the next appropriate word to say — and help saying it.

  6. I’m, um, there’s a word, um. Um. Speechless.

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