Being highly specialized in one area of study can sometimes dim one's knowledge in the common sense department. Having a higher education does not necessarily mean that one is more intelligent—far from it! Buckle up, because these are some extremely educated idiots.
My wife's stepfather was a chemist who currently has diabetes. One night, he went to the ER because his blood sugar was dangerously high. He claimed that he was eating well—he normally doesn't and was baffled as to why his blood sugar was high. Then we looked in his car, and we made a disturbing discovery.
We found a two-liter bottle of ginger ale mixed in with grape juice. He said that the two canceled their sugars out and we didn't know what we were talking about because he was a chemist and he knows how to combine things.
My husband is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met but he really just lacks common sense sometimes. Once he was cleaning out his computer case with a can of air duster. He couldn’t see what was written on his case, so he lit a lighter to illuminate it. He did this while he was spraying a can of compressed air on it.
There was a huge fireball and he messed up his computer and his eyebrows. I still give him heck for it to this day.
I once knew a girl who was academically a genius, but was incapable of applying her knowledge and experiences to real-life situations. We were in a cooking class one day. I heard the tap running behind me and then suddenly a really loud scream followed by a crash.
Apparently, she had decided that the best way to take a super hot dish out of the oven was to wet her hand until it was really cold and then pick up the pan since the water just conducted the heat more and intensified the burns.
She knew how insulation and conduction worked from science, even though she saw everyone else using oven mitts or tea towels. But she decided if her hand was really cold, it would even out with the hot pan and let her pick it up. Boy, was she wrong.
When I did my summer study abroad program, we lived in a hotel. There were four to a room with just beds, a small fridge but no kitchen or even a microwave. It was expensive to eat out all the time so we'd get groceries that didn’t require cooking or the need for a lot of utensils, like salad and sandwich stuff.
Well, one day I was showering and the drain started getting clogged. I reached down expecting to pull out a bunch of hair, especially since we all had long hair. Instead, I pulled out—lettuce—a bunch of lettuce. And I’m like WHAT? So I asked my roommates if anyone had put salad down the shower drain.
Finally, one roommate said, “Yeah, we don’t have a sink, where else would I clean the scraps off my dishes?" I had to explain to her what a garbage disposal was and how showers don’t have them and therefore food would clog them. The irony of this was that her field of study was neuroscience.
We have three engineers in the family. At the cottage one summer, a lifeless tree needed to come down, and the engineers spent the morning and half the afternoon arguing about the optimal way to down the tree—angles, method, etc.
Finally, one of my non-engineer uncles came back from the lake and said, "You're still here? Geez, just pull it down with the pickup truck".
That ended up being the solution.
I once had a punching bag that was filled with sand. My stepdad needed to use the sand for some science purposes one day (he's a physics teacher and builds giant telescopes in the garage). He told me he needed the sand, so I told him to go for it. I couldn't believe what he did next.
I watched as he sawed the base of the punching bag in half to get to the sand. There was a large and very obvious twist-off cap that he could have used instead. Even though he was destroying my punching bag, I still just watched with incredulity. He did idiotic stuff like this all the time, despite being a MENSA member and having four college degrees.
My ex-friend has a PhD in psychology. Every time she dated someone, she'd completely lose her head. She would buy an engagement ring and wedding dress within a week of first dating them. She would give the boyfriend the ring to give to her when he felt like it. These were seven of the most rubbish guys I’ve ever seen.
One guy was 50 and still trying to get his high school garage band a record deal. Another was a dealer, the others were deadbeat dads or habitually unemployed. Two of them ran off with the rings. When she finally found a guy to say yes to marrying her, she literally had seven wedding dresses in her closet and about $200k in rings. But that wasn't all.
She had also bought rings for the guys too. So her new husband convinced her to sell all of the rings and dresses and to put the money in their joint savings account. He used a lot of the funds for work expenses but his company would only direct deposit reimbursements to an account with his name on it.
He forgot to return the funds to their joint account. He traveled so much "for work" that I strongly suspected that he had another family. I haven't spoken to her since 2016 so I'm not sure if they're even still married.
My wife and I have a boy and a girl who are fraternal twins. We actually had a Doctor of Biology from a university ask us if they were "identical". After a brief giggle, we both replied, "No, of course not. That's silly," thinking that she must've been making a joke.
Well, she was not—but she didn't stop there. She even asked if we'd bothered to have them "tested" since they look so much alike. We kindly explained that yes, they're six months old and are brother and sister with just a little hair and similar outfits, so they would look closely related, but no they're not identical. They cannot be!
Another quizzical look later and she asked, "Are you sure?!"
One of my rental units is occupied by a group of PhD students who could not for the life of them figure out how to change light bulbs in a simple ceiling light fixture. They called me to do it and I actually had to explain to them how you remove the glass bowl from the fixture to pull out and replace the bulbs. Seriously.
My uncle has a PhD. Besides being one of the most arrogant people you can ever meet, he also complicates the simplest things by trying to be smart. My brother and I spent over half an hour moving a refrigerator into a house by "working smarter not harder".
Since we didn't have a dolly, we listened to him by putting a blanket under the refrigerator and dragging it instead of just picking it up and moving it inside. “Reduced friction," he said. He thought it was a brilliant idea, but it was not. As it turns out, blankets on a carpet don't reduce friction all that well.
My brother and I ended up just picking it up and putting it in place in about 30 seconds. My uncle acted like we were cavemen and refused to just admit he had a dumb idea.
My first IT job was in a medical laboratory. The first-ever call I received was from a doctor who had been doing the job for years. She called the help desk because her computer wouldn’t turn on. I walked her through some troubleshooting but nothing worked.
I asked the basic questions: "Is the computer plugged in? Is the monitor on? When did the problem start?" She sounded like she did everything I had asked. So I went up to her office and indeed the computer was plugged into a power strip—BUT it was plugged into itself.
Apparently, the cleaning crew had deep-cleaned her office and never plugged anything back in. So Dr PhD plugged the power strip into itself thinking that as long as it was plugged in, that's all she needed.
I went over to help a neighbor put up some crown molding. He rented a big sliding miter saw to do the job and had been absolutely infuriated by the whole thing. Apparently, he had spent hours by the time I showed up trying to change the cutting angle.
I took a peek at the pictorial on the adjustment knob and showed him how to unlock and move it with two fingers. He is a mechanical engineer...
I’m a psych nurse who works in the psych ward at a medical facility. One time, I received a fax about a patient who was at a local ER for possible psychiatric admission. She was a frequent patient of ours in my unit. The fax noted that her blood pressure was through the roof, she had facial drooping on one side, body paralysis on one side, and garbled speech.
Anyone with a hint of healthcare knowledge would tell you that those are classic signs of an active stroke. So I called the ER thinking that maybe they meant to send the fax to our medical unit and sent it to us by mistake. Nope. I said, “You do know she’s having a stroke with those symptoms right?" I couldn't believe her response.
The ER nurse proceeded to tell me that the ER doctor thought that she was faking those symptoms because she had a significant psychiatric history. I said, “So you think she’s faking a blood pressure of 280/165 and body paralysis?" She hung up on me. Our psychiatrist called the ER back on speaker to find out what was going on.
The ER doctor told her that the patient was faking those symptoms because and I quote, “Schizophrenics cannot have strokes”. Our psychiatrist asked him where he went to med school because they owed him a refund!
In high school, my best friend’s parents both had a PhD in psychology. They were well-to-do and had many valuable antiques and electronics in their home. One day, while they were out of the house, someone robbed them blind. Although the law enforcement officers investigated, they were unable to recover any of their possessions.
The insurance company couldn’t honor their claim because they never locked their doors—ever. Six months later, they were robbed again. The thieves took everything they had just replaced and then some. Guess how they got in? Yep! And they still never locked their doors.
I worked in the university's administration department at the Faculty of Computing and Maths. It was there that I learned that sometimes when you specialize too much, you forget how to do the basics of your field.
Once, I had a group of computing PhD students starting, so I was setting up their offices and making sure that they had a connection to the inter/intranet and that their account login worked. That was all I was asked to do as my boss figured they could then set up the rest to their liking. Ummm...NOPE.
Literally 15 mins after I left, I got multiple calls for things that I would consider pretty basic computer literacy: how to connect to a printer, how to install a different mouse, where is the task manager, where are my files on my USB...??
I was honestly blown away.
I once built a house for an engineer. He never said what type of engineer, it was just his argument. When the framing was almost complete, he did a walk-through and noticed a large beam in the basement. He asked me to remove it. I told him it was supporting his entire house.
He said, “I'm an engineer and know what I'm talking about. The span is too short to need a beam". This went on for more than an hour. I then told him that after the framing was inspected and passed, I'd give him a chainsaw and he could cut the beam out if he wanted.
He also asked for a window where there was no window on the drawings. I informed him against it but he knew because "I'm an engineer". So we cut the window into a wall and framed it. It took nine months to make a custom window to fit the opening size he chose because "I'm an engineer".
I had a professor spend ten minutes trying to figure out the best way to split the class in half. She then told an anecdote about how easy it was for one class she was in that illustrated that it's not difficult to split the class in half. Because...it obviously isn't. I started thinking, maybe she was losing her mind, but I also had a suspicion she was a moron.
Anyway, she talks about all the permutations of how to split the class into two "fairly" for a debate. Then she decided she was going to flip a coin to determine how we split the class in half. She pointed to two kids, and said, "Okay, um you be in charge of the left side of the class, and you be in charge of the right side of the class, and whoever wins gets to choose how we split the class up. I'll toss a coin".
She asked one guy to choose a side. He said, “Heads". Then she turned to the girl in front of me and asked her to choose a side, and she said, "Uh—tails?" At which point, I lost it.
I laughed so hard, I nearly fell out of my chair. Everyone stared at me like I was high. The professor asked me what was so funny, and I managed to screech out, "Tails!" As if we weren't already done with the task by selecting the "left side of the class".
After a trip, my spouse’s friend picked us up from the airport. Both my spouse and her friend are nuclear electronics technicians.
It was 90 Fahrenheit outside and her friend apologized because her air conditioner wasn't working. This was confusing since it was a brand-new car that she had purchased only a few months ago. I asked if she had had it checked out by a repairman and she said she had, but there was nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t work.
My spouse was in the front seat and said how much that sucked. I was in the back and noticed that the light for the air conditioner wasn't on. At a stop light, I unbuckled, leaned forward, and pressed the button. Instantly, icy cold air blew into the car. They were both massively confused.
I asked why she had never just turned it on. She said that she had no idea what that button was for so she just didn’t touch it. I pointed out that it literally said "A/C" on it. It was an awkward ride the rest of the way home.
I went to three ERs when I felt something was wrong with my arm. It felt like a bug bite on Day 1 and by Day 4, it felt like a bungee cord had been wrapped from my elbow to my wrist. Three medical doctors told me that it was a skin irritation or dermatitis. I kept telling them that something was seriously wrong and it wasn’t just a skin condition.
I have no medical degree. I work in property management. I rely on these educated professionals to provide the proper diagnosis. On Day 5, I walked into another ER and said, “I don’t care if I have to pay-out-of-pocket or sit here all night but something is wrong with my arm”.
Finally, after many rude looks and comments, I was finally given an ultrasound of my arm. Things were not looking good. I was then immediately rushed to have an MRI. After that, I was admitted. Apparently, they found a 3” blood clot in my upper arm, two in my chest area, and one that had passed my lung already.
I was diagnosed with Factor 2 Gene Mutation (blood clotting disorder) 22 days later.
I passed on an old iPhone to a friend of mine, who happens to have a PhD. I explained to her that she would need to buy a new sim for the phone since we had already transferred ownership. She went and purchased a sim card.
The next day, she called me to tell me that the phone still wasn't working. It would turn on but it had no data. After a bit of troubleshooting, I asked her, “Did you put the sim card in the phone?" I'm not quite sure how she thought a sim card worked before that day, but she knows now.
I was at a college keg party and someone complained that the booze wasn’t flowing out of the gravity keg. I checked the keg and it was almost full. It turned out, someone had closed the air intake on the top of the keg. I opened the intake and poured myself a drink—problem solved.
A few minutes later, someone else complained that it was all out. I told them that the keg was full a few minutes ago and it was a tap problem that I had fixed. They told me that they had just come from the keg. So I went back to the keg and found the intake was closed again.
I opened it and poured the young lady who said it was empty, a drink. As she was leaving, my roommate came in and went to the intake, and closed it. Now my roommate was a straight-A student who got all As mostly—due to his photographic memory. Yet I had to tell him that he needed to leave the intake open to let air in to displace the liquid coming out of the lower tap.
He then proceeded to tell me that since the brew is carbonated, and that air wasn’t needed to replace the liquid volume lost when the brew is dispensed. So I asked him two questions: If it is not needed, why is there an upper tap, and secondly, did he really think the amount of gas the carbonation gave off in a glass of booze was equal to the volume of the liquid booze?
He thought for a few seconds and his only response was, "I have a 4 point 0 What is your GPA?" Then he walked away.
I work in pension administration and one of our clients is one of the best universities in the world. Some of the professors I deal with have clearly graduated college, done a PhD, and then gone straight into teaching. But they just have no understanding of how the world works outside the framework of a university.
We send out a letter to their faculty which outlines how the early retirement factors work. The notice says something like, “If you retire early, your benefit is reduced by X% per month to reflect the fact it will be paid for a longer time. So for a hypothetical accrued benefit of $1,000, if you retire at age 55, your actual payment amount will be $Y”.
A professor straight up called in and asked the dumbest question imaginable. He was wondering why his actual payment wasn’t $1,000 since he didn’t retire early, so according to this notice, it should be $1,000. I was like, “Bro, you never heard the word hypothetical before?"
When I was at university, I shared a house with a brilliantly smart guy who studied physics.
A few months into living there, the light in the bathroom went out. It had one of those glass bulb-shaped lampshades that you see in cheap hotels. He and another housemate knocked on my door. Clearly, the act of changing a lightbulb was a new and terrifying experience. I figured it could be a teaching moment.
"Hey, the lightbulb went in the bathroom".
"Okay, are you going to change it?"
"We don't have any lightbulbs".
"We live right next to a supermarket".
"Oh yeah! I'll go buy one".
About half an hour later, he came back and said, "I went to the shop, but they didn't have any lightbulbs that were big enough". He thought the lampshade was the bulb. He looked at it and assumed we had a flipping giant light bulb. He owns a house now. I dread to think...
I was sitting across the table from one of my friends, who is probably one of the top five smartest people I’ve ever met. I had asked for some water but instead of just passing the bottle to me, she squeezed it. This was a wide-mouth water bottle and the table was a “grid table”.
This caused about 95% of the water to spill all over me—from my face to my knees. I was completely drenched on my left side with frigid water.
We had an engineer who had about four years of experience and was also a member of our company’s volunteer fire team. He set up a grill on the balcony of his house. The problem was that the balcony had a glass covering all around it with windows to vent. He lit the grill and started cooking some meat—but he made a serious mistake.
He didn’t open the windows AND left the door to the balcony from his house open. Let’s just say he had to use some of his firefighting skills that day.
My wife has a PhD. She’s very smart in most things but occasionally has some lapses. One time she decided to start turning the steering wheel while her car was only halfway out of the garage. She ended up grinding one of the rear doors of her car into the wood panel on the side of the garage entrance—majorly denting a large segment of her car.
She continued stepping on the gas once it started happening instead of slamming on the brakes. Oops. Luckily, it wasn’t super noticeable after cleaning off the paint transfer, so we just left it instead of bothering with a $1000+ repair.
I worked with a climate scientist who could analyze climate data like nobody's business, but if you wanted him to do literally anything else, you had to hold his hand the entire time. He had zero common sense as well. The senior staff at that office idolized him because of the "PhD" after his name.
One time, he was in a work vehicle and had a car accident—also his fault. I asked for a copy of the official report for insurance purposes, and he said he didn't get one because "I thought you handled that".
Why would I, who was not present at the time of the accident, have the official report that was written at the time of the accident? The other guy that you ran into has one!
I help run an escape room business. We once had a team of doctors try to run through our room. I thought they'd be pros—but I was hilariously mistaken. They used half of their time and all three of their hints on the exact same puzzle.
Despite all the help, they still couldn't figure it out until we straight-up told them the answer—just to be nice. Even then, they still didn't finish the room. To this day, whenever we have a team running the rooms that feels dumb because they're having trouble, we always tell them this story and say: "So think of it this way—you can correctly say you're smarter than a team of doctors".
The smartest man I had ever personally met had three doctoral-level degrees, a pair of master's degrees, and some undergrad stuff. He'd just gotten a "new" tractor back to Ohio from Virginia, a '53 Ford. It was in fantastic condition. It looked better than his other '53 Ford tractor.
The second day with it at home, he had a bottle of ale and decided to go out and plow up his garden. He broke the key off in the ignition of the new tractor (it was the wrong key), then he managed to break off the other key in the other tractor. He bypassed the ignition and started plowing—in heavy rain.
About 15 minutes in, he got his old tractor buried to the back axle. He then bypassed the second tractor’s ignition, log-chained it to the first one, and promptly buried that one too. He spent three hours in the rain drinking, swearing, and getting them more and more stuck.
Eventually, he came in, took a shower, and went to bed. The next day, sober, he replaced both ignitions and winched himself free. That took him about two hours. He could have saved five hours by just not trying to plow while totally plastered.
My idiot ex was a highly-educated engineer with a job as a DoD contractor. Two weeks after I dumped him for being an idiot, he married some chick he knew from high school, and had a kid a little bit later. When she eventually dumped him for being an idiot, the ensuing custody battle was bitter.
Since she was a teacher and he was an engineer, his idea was to file multiple frivolous motions in court in order to run up her lawyer bills and force her to give up their child. The judge, however, was on to him. After multiple warnings, he slapped him and his lawyer with massive sanctions.
The case was written up in a couple of judicial journals as a "never, ever do this no matter how mad you are" example, and his erratic behavior cost him his security clearance. He ended up losing his DoD gig. The whole situation could have been avoided by doing literally anything else.
My undergraduate biochemistry professor had some pretty contrarian views of global warming. I'm not talking about making a sly comment like, "Can you believe people think humans are contributing to climate change?"
No, we had an entire one-hour lecture written into the schedule, with a PowerPoint presentation, saying how global warming isn't real, and if it was it wasn't that big of a deal conceptually. This man has published dozens of papers on coagulation, genetic disease, and cancer research for over 30 years. He's also a chair in the Department of Chemistry.
On my final exam, I had to write into my exam blue book that renewable energy was frivolous and that mass production of CO2 is good for plants. I didn't come up with that but I wasn't about to risk a -10 points on a final when I was running a 4 point 0 GPA at that point.
I still distinctly remember him showing a slide of a helicopter flying to thaw a frozen wind turbine, and him pointing out that the fuel spent by the helicopter to maintain wind power used more energy than that wind turbine would ever produce.
As part of my clinical as a nursing student, I had to stay in student accommodations on the hospital grounds with a group of med students. During one weekend, we received a notice that they would be testing the emergency systems in our building and they needed to shut the power off between set hours.
Now our kitchen had an auto boil and a gas stove—one that needed matches to light. When the power was off, the auto boil stopped working so one couldn't boil water for tea or coffee. The logical response to this would be to either go to the on-site coffee shop that was open or use the gas stove and a pot to boil water.
What did these med students do? They stood in the kitchen in various states of panic because they couldn't make coffee. When I came out to see what the fuss was about, I simply suggested some logical options. These med students may be very intelligent but lacked in the common sense department.
I was only permitted to get my open-water SCUBA certification if I took it as a college class. The instructor was also one of the oceanography professors and also ran the local artificial reef program. I was planning on majoring in biology and already volunteered in a zoological setting. I only needed the piece of paper to continue.
Somehow, the professor still believed that sharks were inherently dangerous and dove with a borderline unlawful power head on his speargun, even with students. Some of the things he taught were from the 70s and were either disproved or otherwise outdated. I walked out of his class one day when he talked about dangerous wildlife before I said something.
I did not finish my degree but did go on to become a diving instructor for a while. Knowing what I know now, I don’t know how this guy didn’t kill half his students.
I once worked with a girl who graduated from Brown—and she would never shut up about it. It was always "Brown this" and "Brown that".
I went to a state school and it was apparent that she looked down on anyone who didn't attend an Ivy League school. So one day, she was doing her usual bragging and I couldn't stop myself...I'll never forget the look on her face when I said, "Oh, you went to Brown? And yet, here we are—together—in the same place—doing the same job".
I work in satellite development. A new guy in our lab, who was working on a master's degree, called me up and yelled at me for doing an inferior design on a solar panel deployment mechanism. I designed it. He was testing it.
He said, “The dang thing doesn't work. Didn't you do any analysis or math? I thought you were supposed to know what you were doing".
Since I designed it, I got very concerned. "What do you mean it doesn't work? It just has to fold out. It's one spring. What isn't working?"
He sent me a video and there I saw the problem.
I replied, “There's no gravity in space. You're testing them in the wrong direction. The hinge should be pointing up, not parallel to the ground".
He took a new video, spammed our boss, and told everyone that he "fixed" the solar panels. He now works at Rocketlab.
I worked in administration at a hospital. There was a magnetic badge reader that was used for entering and exiting a particular wing. Above it was a sign that read, “This is not a time clock".
One day while I was waiting in that area, I watched several surgeons and specialists go up to the card reader and swipe their badges. They looked confused when the automatic door opened instead. The time clock was 30 feet away and had tons of features on it including a clock. The card reader was a little plastic box stuck to the wall at waist level.
I pointed out the sign and location of the time clock to them. They all insisted I didn't know any better because I'm just an office person. I would've trusted any one of them to do brain surgery, but I guarantee you they wouldn't be paid for it because they didn't clock in and out.
There are two ladies who have a lake home near where I live. One is a neurosurgeon, the other has a PhD in aviation engineering.
Last summer, I was helping them get set up for their Fourth of July bash—complete with drinks, a pontoon, and a hot tub after dark. They spent an ungodly amount of money on this new sound system. We were getting the thing started when one asked me to help out with the sound.
Apparently, the music was just barely audible with the switch in the "Only Noise" "ON" setting, but nothing was coming out when it was on the "On Full Force" "OFF" setting. I almost burst out laughing. I then showed her the volume knob and the "On" switch.
My uncle once dated a marine biologist who argued with me over Christmas dinner that white sharks didn’t exist in the waters off California. She insisted they didn’t. I told her that they did. Rudely and loudly she spent 20 minutes explaining to everyone that I was dumb and that I shouldn’t talk about things I didn’t know anything about. And that she’s smart and is a scientist.
This was 30 years ago and I still think of it as the stupidest most infuriating thing ever.
My wife's uncle had a PhD and worked at NASA for decades. He also had some really "eccentric" approaches to life. For instance, he read that left turns were more dangerous than right turns, so he would chart out these driving paths that involved endless rightward spirals.
He also read that smart people didn't need as much sleep as regular people so he deliberately truncated his sleep and would then fall asleep in the middle of the day at random times.
In general, he had this tendency to take something that was probably partially true—like left turns being more dangerous, and then run it out into its most extreme and absurd interpretation—you should never take left turns. He would then try to make his life bend around it. It made him a living reductio ad absurdum fallacy.
Whenever we came across an absurd situation, we'd just say, "Oh, that's an Uncle Richard solution".
I had a boss who was an engineer who put a couple hundred dollars in change in a bank’s pneumatic drive-through tube. It got stuck and they had to use a jackhammer to get it out. He was upset that the bank charged him for this because he didn’t know that would happen.
All this, despite the fact that the bank had large signs saying not to put change in the tubes, including on the tubes themselves.
Years ago, I used to work in tech support. The company I worked for was called a managed service provider. This essentially meant that other companies would pay us a monthly fee to handle all their IT needs. One of our customers was the consul (similar to an ambassador) of another country.
When he called me, he was furious that his computer wouldn't turn on. I went through the usual troubleshooting steps with him but nothing worked. So I packed up my tools and headed over for a site visit to take a look. The problem, as it turned out, was that he had been using the top row of his keyboard as a business card holder.
It was jammed packed with dozens of business cards slotted between the function keys holding them all down. He was a foreign country's representative in Scotland! That job taught me that smart people—lawyers, doctors, and consuls of the world—were usually only really smart in specific things, but not necessarily having any common sense.
I went to the University of Chicago back when it was the third-best school in the country. I was surrounded by the brightest minds, but not a lick of them had much common sense.
In my first year, a professor forgot to order the books we needed for a CORE class. He didn’t realize this until a bunch of us tried buying them at the school bookstore and found the shelves were empty. He had to revise the curriculum for our entire quarter in less than a day because we had no books.
I had a friend with a PhD in PK/PD, which is an area of pharmaceuticals that goes way over my head. One night at 10 pm, she called me and said, “Sorry to call so late. I'm having a car emergency and my boyfriend isn't picking up".
“It's totally cool. What's wrong?" I replied.
"I'm out of gas".
I grabbed my jacket and car keys and started heading out. “It's okay, this kind of thing happens. Where are you? What exits are you near? Did you pass a service station?" I asked.
"I'm at a service station," she said.
“Okay, are you near a gas pump?”
"Yes, I’m next to one, and—um, how do you pump gas? I grew up in New Jersey and—STOP LAUGHING! THIS IS SERIOUS!"
My ex-husband—though he is a very difficult person—happens to be a brilliant scientist. He also didn't know how to use a pegboard and the special hooks that go in them. He must have been close to 40 years old when I discovered this.
We had a whole wall of pegboard in our garage, some of which had hooks in it and some of which didn't. So I went to the hardware store and bought a bunch of hooks so we could hang up the garden tools and other random things that were in the garage. I handed him one and he was completely mystified.
I even showed him how to put a hook into the pegboard. It wasn't how I imagined demonstrating superiority to someone who was, by all accounts, an arrogant, unapologetic narcissist, but you can bet I enjoyed every second of it.
As a Student Resource Coordinator at a university, I once had a computer science professor contact me because he was having trouble with the computer and projector displaying his presentation. The whole class laughed when I asked if he checked his connections. It turned out his computer wasn’t plugged in.
My roommate is a PhD student in polymer science at one the best institutions in my country. She didn't know where the microphone was placed in her cellphone. I saw her talking into the speaker and asked her what she was doing. She didn't believe me when I told her that it wasn't a microphone but a speaker.
I was friends with an insanely “book smart" kid in high school who was a math prodigy. He was years ahead of all of his classes and was a straight-A student. He was the type that memorized pi to 1,000 decimal places just for fun. He eventually got accepted to MIT and became a rich and successful software engineer writing high-frequency trading applications.
There was this one time in high school, however, where he wasn’t quite intelligent. And boy, was it a doozy. For some reason, he decided to set off fireworks in a dry, brush-filled canyon behind his house. According to those who were with him, when one fuse burned down and didn’t ignite, he decided he’d set it off by putting it in a bush and then lighting the bush on fire.
It worked, detonating and raining burning brush down in every direction, which set off a massive brush fire that ended up costing his parents $200k in fines.
In college, I lived above some med students who were studying brain surgery. I had worked out an arrangement with them where they would trade me drinks for household tasks. They were both selectively brilliant but surprisingly inept at many things.
One time, they asked me to borrow a drill. I agreed, and an hour later they knocked on the door saying that it wasn't working. I went to look and discovered that they wanted to hang a curtain rod by trying to drill a screw into hardwood—as in drill bit to the end of a screw, no pilot hole.
I had seen pictures of these guys assisting in actual brain surgery by that point, and this was too much for them.
My ex, who’s currently completing her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology, had a real lack of knowledge and common sense when it came to children. She was confused when I said I couldn't go out after putting my toddler to bed as I had no one to babysit.
In her mind, once my daughter was asleep, she no longer needed anyone to take care of her. I chalked it up to cultural differences and never being around children. Eventually, though, our opinions on raising kids differed too much and I had to end things for my daughter's sake.
I once worked for a professor at one of the best universities in the world. He was a highly regarded and renowned author of a theory that the average person may know and one of the core modern theories taught in any entry-level class in the field.
Despite his brilliance, he made my colleagues and I print and physically file all of his email correspondence—volumes of them! He wouldn’t accept the suggestion to just save everything electronically because, “What if the computer breaks down?"
So we filed every single email back and forth, even just single-word responses. There were hundreds and sometimes thousands a day. He just couldn’t comprehend safe electronic storage because I guess he thought everything was physically stored on his local computer.
It was ludicrous having some of the best minds in the world doing this filing drudgery day in and out—not to mention it was tedious as ever and such a huge waste of resources. Yet the school gave him loads of space for his “archives” to keep him happy.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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