Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Oaf ahoy!

I stood at the top of the stairs and waited for a big chap clumping his way up. He had a large mirror under one arm. He heaved himself to the top, strode off and I went down. An everyday occurrence but I noticed two things.

Firstly he didn’t thank me for waiting, not even a nod.
Secondly I knew he wouldn’t.

I hardly looked at him at all, just catching an image of this heavy chap with a heavy face in my peripheral vision. I didn’t expect any acknowledgement from him and didn’t get it – not even a grunt. So how did I know?

Maybe we have an acute oaf detector which picks up tiny behavioural signals. The oaf in an important social figure so we need to detect and avoid them – the rewards are considerable. Did Darwin mention the evolution of oaf detectors? Maybe he missed that one so there is work to be done on a viable theory of oafs.

So to begin. As you must know from your own experience, there are two basic types of oaf, full-time and part-time. By the way, I tend to class the dilettante oaf as part-time. Keeps things simple when it comes to oaf theory.

Now presumably the full-time oaf is much easier to detect than the part time oaf because the behavioural signals are that much stronger and more consistent. For example, part time oafs usually know how to smile properly even if they only do it on a part time basis.

I’m not talking of strong behavioural signals of course, such as deliberately treading on my toes as he passed me at the top of the stairs. For one thing we don’t usually see that kind of oaf carrying mirrors. Somebody else would have to do the carrying.

Of course my oaf may simply have been forgetful – a saint mulling over his next good deed. Maybe the mirror was a present for his dear old mum... 

Curses - that’s another social theory down the drain.


Graeme said...

just an observation...but I have lived in Amsterdam where, commonly, you have to climb an extraordinarily steep (by UK standards) staircase to get to an upper floor. In which case, if a man were carrying a hevy object, you would not expect him to say anthing at all. On the other hand, Dutch women climb those stairs in high heels.

Sackerson said...

Like you, I prefer enlightened reflection to brute aggression and swagger. I'm sure we'd both happily exchange an "oaf for a muse of fire", any day.

Macheath said...

Many experienced teachers are equipped with instant 'oaf detection' skills - and are familiar with the sickening sense of recognition when a new class contains one or more.

The natural habitat of the oaf is the back row of a year 11 classroom, where most of them remain in spirit for life, but it is quite easy to spot oaflets even in the early stages of primary school.

Demetrius said...

Could it have been the shillelagh you were carrying at the time?

A K Haart said...

Graeme - it didn't look particularly heavy, but he did and maybe he didn't have much spare breath for civilities.

Sackers - ha ha. I had to look that up but somehow I knew it would be Bill.

Mac - as I remember it's easy for the rest of the class too. Maybe schools need a conical hat with "O" on it.

Demetrius - it was possibly the eighteenth century boarding axe, although I wasn't holding it in a suggestive manner.

James Higham said...

Under one warm?

A K Haart said...

James - thanks! Corrected.