The problem with assuming that everyone is an idiot but me is that it makes me blind to the rare occasions when people actually know what they are doing. In these cases, this attitude backfires, making me the one and only idiot on the scene. Let’s take a quick poll to see how most people would handle the following situations. Your answers will reveal a lot about how smart you think you are vs. how smart you really are.
If your approach was to break from the crowd and go for the obviously superior option of getting on an empty train, having your own seat, and avoiding a line, you definitely think that you are smarter than everyone else. If your approach was to stick with the crowd, you actually are smart. Because what you will find on an empty train, a lone open seat, or a vacant escalator is the reason that everyone else is avoiding it. It’s not because they are all stupid…no…it’s because that train car has no AC, that seat has a puddle of urine in it, and that escalator is moving in the opposite direction.
A truly smart person would approach situations like these, analyze them, and come to the conclusion that there must be a reason that everyone is avoiding the universally preferable option due to some unknown factor that makes that option undesirable. A person with limited faith in humanity, like me, approaches these situations and thinks, Wow, I am the only smart person alive, and heads straight for that puddle of urine.
The logic of a smart person does occur to me, but there is always that nagging thought of, Or maybe there is no good reason and everyone is just an idiot. Like I am the only one who likes to sit down. Like everyone else thought, I dunno, it could be nice to stand in a long line and waste some time before work today. I’d believe it. The problem is, no matter how much I know better, I have to check. Even though I understand that it is extremely unlikely that hundreds of people would wait in line while a perfectly functioning escalator sits to the right, it is possible. So I have to walk up to the escalator and step on it only to find that it is pushing me backwards. (I don’t have to do it with a “You are all idiots, let me show you how it’s done” look on my face, but that just comes with the territory I guess). I just can’t risk waiting in a long line only to find out that, yes, everyone else is an idiot, because that empty escalator was in fact functional this whole time. I can’t rely on other people’s judgement, because sometimes they are wrong. Have you ever been in line to use a single-stall restroom, but after seven minutes nobody has come out, so you awkwardly ask the person in front of you, “Um, did you ever check the door to see if it was locked…is anyone actually in there?” And no, nobody is in there, and you just wasted seven minutes of your life because you trusted someone to have basic intelligence.
So in these situations, I always check for myself. But I’m usually wrong, so I join the crowd and watch as other idiots like me head for that open car or that pee puddle, and with my new-found insight I scoff at them, Ha, this guy. What, you think you are smarter than all of us??