Posted by: ritagone | August 15, 2018

The Know-It-All


When we were in London last week, one of the fun “tourist-y”things we did was a London tour in a beautiful iconic black London taxi cab.  For three hours you are driven around London with a driver who is an experienced tour guide giving you a tour based on your desires and requests.

I had asked for a tour for the two of us that was not the usual, since Michael and I had been to London enough times that we wanted to see something out of the ordinary.

It was a hot day, as it had been for over a month in London, with no air conditioning in the black cab because no one in England expects such continual heat.  The lawns and gardens everywhere were yellow and scorched instead of green and lush, something you don’t see very often in the U.K., a marvel in itself, but not so shocking to someone from Southern California.  (Proving that everything really is relative!)  We spent a lot of the three hours in traffic, which was not Jerry’s fault, but which made me feel I was paying to sit bumper to bumper in another country, a weird feeling.

But the result of sitting was that while we were at a traffic stand-still, we got to listen to Jerry.  Jerry was a man of some girth, in his late 40’s or early 50’s I would guess, of that size associated with a person who doesn’t move about much but sits a lot.  He said he was from Edinburgh but he sounded very Londonish to me.  And he did love to talk, which I suppose is essential to the job of tour guide, which he claimed to have had for 12 years, prior to which he was a London cab driver.  So he was well suited to his work, for sure.

At first Jerry was very entertaining and told fascinating stories and anecdotes.  I do love me a good anecdote.  Then, however, I started to notice something very distinct about him: he was an expert on everything: he criticized and complained about the national government over and over again.  Well, who doesn’t do that?  But the implication in his criticism was that he knew exactly how to do it better, what the stupid mistakes of the politicians were and how easily they could be remedied if only Jerry were in charge of things.  People talk like this all the time in the culture we live in, don’t they?  Apparently everyone can do a better job of running the government, be it local or state-wide or national, than anyone actually elected to do so.  That’s nothing new.

But then I noticed something very specifically arrogant about Jerry as he talked on and on, some of it about local color (and therefore part of our tour package and very interesting), and some of it about other topics in general, based on whatever and wherever his mind went, but always pointing to the fact that Jerry knew best.  For example, he asked Michael what field his career had been in, and when Michael told him he had been a writer of television programs, an answer that almost always elicits a fascinated response from his listeners, Jerry seemed a bit impressed but even more eager to inform Michael with his own knowledge of how television shows are made…or should be made.

Writing tables were much too large nowadays, said Jerry, as if he had just come from one and found the size of it off-putting.  Most people don’t even know what a writing table is, much less how big or small it should be.  I’ll give him this: Jerry knew just enough about this subject, the television business, to be sort of intelligent sounding.  He obviously watched a lot of tv, for one thing, because he could name many, many shows, both past and present.  But I saw a small smile curling on Michael’s mouth, even though my husband is too kind and polite to say anything, and even I knew enough to know that a writing table’s size has nothing to do with the quality of the television show itself.  This was after Jerry told us that the reason many contemporary television programs are so bad is because the writing staff is way too big.  The smaller, the better the scripts, and therefore the better the tv shows.

        What amazed me is that Jerry waxed on even after knowing that his listener was a retired television man.  Did he do the same with retired doctors, lawyers, plumbers?  Did he tell them how their fields could be improved if only those in charge would listen to Jerry?

The know-it-all can’t help himself.  He really, truly thinks that if someone were to hand him (or her) the keys to the oval office or the mayor’s  or the governor’s, or whoever is in charge, he or she could do so much better.  There would be less crime, less waste, less stupidity on the part of everyone, and efficiency would rule.  It would only take his or her clearness of vision and insight and strength of will to see through the legislation necessary to create the brave new world in the wings.

If only it were that easy.

There are so many know-it-alls out there that if we just put them in control, we who are so utterly incompetent most of the time, all our problems and worries would be over.

It makes me stop and realize the many times I think I know it all and come off that way.  Please, God, and please, anyone who knows me and loves me, stop me in my tracks when I start to sound like Jerry, so pompous, so sure of the right answers and the only way of doing things and so condescending toward those who aren’t behaving the way I think they should.

Jerry was a fascinating guy for three hours.  Most of what he had to say about London history was interesting and well-studied on his part.  But Jerry should not be running the government, nor should he probably be overseeing television scripts.  I wish he saw and understood that truth.

It would make Jerry a much more likeable human being.

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