When Janette met with her cousin Ben, her head was still reeling.
“I can’t believe what just happened to me. You know Bay Street? It’s a oneway heading downtown. I almost hit someone head-on who was going the wrong way. Right in the middle of rush hour. Can you believe that?” asked Janette.
A sympathetic smile widened across Ben’s face. “That’s the first of Cipolla’s Five Fundamental Laws of Stupidity. Everyone underestimates the number of stupid people in circulation.”
“Dr. Carlo Cipolla. He wrote ‘em back in the seventies.”
“Never head of him,” dismissed Janette. “Know the worst part of the whole thing? The idiot who nearly killed me was the CFO of the company I work for.”
“That’s Cipolla’s second law. The probability that someone is stupid is independent of any characteristic of that person.”
Janette frowned and her hands shook. “What’re you talking about?”
“It means stupidity is universally and equally proportioned across all socio-economic, ethic and gender classifications,” explained Ben.
“Whatever,” spat Janette. “At least you could give me a little sympathy.”
“What good is that?”
“It would make me feel better.”
“Maybe, but it wouldn’t make you smarter.”
The insinuation made Janette bristle. “So I’m not smart enough?”
“Is anyone? Really?”
Janette simmered. Ben had an infuriating way of putting things in perspective.
“Alright,” she fumed. “Give me some knowledge.”
Ben smirked. “I’ll give you the definition of a stupid person. It’s someone who causes losses to another person or group of people while deriving no gain to themselves, and possibly even incurring losses. That’s law number three, by the way.”
“You memorized that,” accused Janette.
“Of course. It’s important.”
Janette’s eyes narrowed. “Where did you learn this?”
“I’m writing a paper on it.”
“It’s the least studied element of human behavior.”
“And one of the biggest.”
“Wait. You don’t think I’m stupid, do you?” asked Janette.
“Of course not. You’re one of the smartest people I know.”
That gave Janette a glimmer of reassurance, but it quickly passed. “If there are so many stupid people, even my bosses, then how am I supposed to get ahead?”
“What? Like, succeed?”
“Yeah. The cream’s supposed to rise to the top,” complained Janette.
There was a long pause as Ben pondered the question. His eyes suddenly lit up. “The cream always rises to the top, it’s just sometimes it needs to be beaten to get there.”
Janette slouched. “That’s reassuring.”
“Just remember,” said Ben. “It’s Ben’s First Law of Overcoming Stupidity.”