Being the Sneeree

When I read Dilbert, the abrasively lovely cartoon, I enjoy having him sneer at the stupidity of corporate life and most of the people who dwell therein. Dilbert is a Five, and like a lot of Fives, scorns stupidity above all other vices. You can feel his rage that stupid people have power over him, that stupid people get to claim full equality with intelligent people and that he, by virtue of corporate employment must deal with stupid people.

And Dilbert is funny. When I read Dilbert, I am the sneerer.

But my e-mail developed a malady so I called the provider to talk with tech support. This for a modest sum of $29 which carried no guarantee of success but did guarantee that this technical advice would be of severely limited duration and scope.

I'm a sensitive child and I knew I was in trouble from his first sentence. Immediately, I could hear the sneer. When he asked about my call, the accent was on the wrong word. He didn't say, "What is your problem?" I like it when they say that, it focuses both of us on what is wrong. No. He sneered (my usual computer consultant insists that sneer training is part of tech training), he sneered, "What is your problem." This shifts the focus to my inadequacy. I didn't like that.

Technical arrogance

He then began to talk in techtalk and ask me questions the answers to which would have given me an advanced degree in computeracy. He rained directions. And got sarcastic. He told me to type in a word. I asked, "where?" He said, without shame, I could tell, "On your keyboard!" I was about to explain that his command lacked referential index, that I meant where on the screen, but never irritate the bus driver is my motto.

His speech began to slow down, as though he were explaining foreign policy to George Bush. He walked me through a labyrinth of boxes, clicks and checks and to my astonishment, my problem went away. He snarled his wish that I have a great day and I thanked him - a mixture of awe and resentment. If he's so smart, why can't he teach?

Because he was a Five. Even though he had the social skills of a terrorist on too much Starbucks, he was lucid, incremental and ultimately helpful. Now I see why, when companies take their best technical people and promote them to management, they then weep over the results.

Entranced Fives often have a brusque, curt manner of expression, just because they are not paying attention to anything except how a thing works. Sneering is optional, and possibly induced by reading Dilbert or dealing with poets in a prose world, but arrogance often goes with the territory. I could have sworn that I could see him looking down his nose at me over the phone.

Fives also have a remarkable ability, as did my techie on this call, to be utterly clear about a whole series of minute details. And they can move back and forth from big picture to tiny detail with Swiss precision. I see now why NASA makes it back from outer space most of the time. Fives are running the place.

I am in awe of these techno-nerds, but it is much more fun being the sneerer.