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.