Service of Common Sense

December 21st, 2015

Categories: Architects, Common Sense, Experts, Hair Salon, Politics

I tell graduate students I mentor to rely on common sense and share a conversation with a former boss I’ve mentioned before on this blog. He was in the hospital with a mystery ailment, suffering countless diagnostic tests. “Could it be phlebitis?” I asked him, remembering he’d had that when I worked for him years before. Turned out that was the problem, not some exotic disease. You didn’t need a medical degree to come up with that obvious conclusion.

Whistle in the Wind

So when I heard of Bernie Sanders’ campaign worker who accessed and copied Hilary Clinton’s voter database I thought, “Is this person tone deaf to this candidate’s clean-as-a-whistle persona?” He parked his common sense in some other candidate’s driveway.

Study the Surroundings

On a visit to The Morgan Library this Saturday, I marveled at a 3-story glass wall in the front hall [at the right of this photo]. The view captured the back of a lackluster apartment building and some serviceable, unattractive separations between unimpressive back yards. This view diminished the impact of the architectural achievement and questioned its purpose. 

In addition, a heavy door to the library and Mr. Morgan’s study opens when you push a knob on the right and surprises as it comes at you. For a distracted visitor or one who can’t back up and out of the way quickly enough, it could be dangerous.

Listen to the Expert

My hair stylist told me of a mutual friend’s folly. The woman is a recent widow who wanted a different look as her birthday approached and she ignored the stylist’s advice and had a permanent. [She lives out of town and has her hair done locally.] The stylist warned her that the procedure would not enhance her wonderful straight, thick hair. The friend compounded the recklessness by immediately dyeing her tresses, burning her hair and achieving a dramatically freaky effect. The only remedy the hair stylist could suggest was to leave mayonnaise on the hair the day of her next appointment with her coiffeur, though she didn’t hold out much hope. Hopefully the rich oils in mayo would act as a super conditioner.

Is it ego that causes employees or consultants to take actions that conflict with the boss’s approach; an architect to design a project that ignores surroundings or a woman to override an expert’s advice? Can you think of other examples?

6 Responses to “Service of Common Sense”

  1. hb Said:

    I agree with you, and think that as a country we are suffering from a severe shortage of that precious commodity.

    From personal experience, I can testify that political power is a dangerous corrupter. It is like carrying a loaded weapon, which my job required to do for a time. The temptation to use it must be stifled or somebody will be hurt. Bernie must have been appalled, but I am sure he understood what happened and why.

    As to the RENZO PIANO/morgan library, the worst part of the story is that the library trustees didn’t even have enough money to pay for that disaster when they embarked on it.

    Wherefore art thou common sense?

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    Using one’s head and seeking logical answers usually works but not always. Let’s play the devil’s advocate here by supposing that a) The former boss actually developed an exotic disease independent of phlebitis; b) Bernie Sanders is a shady character with an assortment of bones in his closet, and that c) The hairdresser was wrong. (Least likely premise – as per personal experience)

    Doctors, even good ones, make errors and/or fail to notice a solution clamoring for attention under the communal nose. Architects, decorators and the like, are most likely to be accused of blunders, since taste is relative. The “planners” and/or “consultants” at the Morgan, are misnamed: Idiot(s) may prove a more accurate title. Many get jobs through connections, so it’s not necessarily a matter of ego, but ignorance.

    Trust the hairdresser folks! He/she generally know what they’re talking about, and the consequences for failure to heed warnings bring horrifying results, as Miss Fuzzyhead may have learned by now.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Bernie immediately apologized when the misstep came up at the Saturday night debate which is unusual for a politician. He wasn’t a wimp about it either: He suggested that there should be an investigation as clearly something is wrong if his political party’s database is so easily hacked.

    I was always amazed at the reactions of my first bosses who would congratulate me for suggestions that were so clearly obvious to me. It took years for me to realize that not everyone has the gift of common sense.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve seen doctors ignore their patients because their arrogance gets in the way of common sense. If your neighbors suffer from an infectious disease and report similar symptoms and you tell this to the doctor, he/she might at least look into it and not wait two months and after countless tests announce that this is what the half-dead patient suffered from all along. It happened close to home. In another instance, when I got Lyme disease early on, my then doctor shrugged and his nurse said, “anyone with a headache thinks they have Lyme.” I had every symptom. It took my pleading for a second blood test to confirm and get me the proper antibiotic.

    The museum’s planners/consultants are like many in groups: Each is afraid to be the first to point out the Emperor’s new clothes. The architect is famous and therefore must be good. How dare anyone question or do anything but gush? He may not have taken a look down the back of the building and his associates and assistants didn’t either or if they did, it may have been too late, the huge expanse of glass already ordered.

    I’ve learned, too late in far too many instances, that if my common sense is tugging at me to LISTEN. When I haven’t, 9 times out of 9 I’ve paid big consequences.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    It seems that an oversized ego goes hand in hand with lack of common sense.

    In medicine it can be a refusal to refer a patient to the appropriate caregiver so as not to admit inability to diagnose or treat a particular condition. Suffering from what was an infectious disease, I knew for certain that I had not been exposed to malaria or yellow fever, but that due to my travels dengue was a possibility. The bewildered doctor had me studying on the computer with her those two diseases I didn’t have, ignoring the advice from an epidemiologist who had seen me before my return trip. The consequences could have been dire except that the epidemiologist and common sense prevailed over the internist.

    Architecture is famous or notorious for seemingly discordant or structurally impossible designs. Often in the case of museums designs may overwhelm or distract from the art work they are to better display. (I would categorize the work of Frank Gehry, despite his overwhelming fame, in that category)

    Politicians are often subject to aides who try to achieve power and recognition by crossing lines that contradict their employers’ tenets. It is also easy to blame an underling for overstepping by making him or her the scapegoat of unattractive and negative campaigning.

    As for hair, cosmetic, and fashion disasters they are everywhere, because
    of unwillingness to accept reality or to admit that experts ought to know better.
    At present for the best example of uncontrolled egos causing political and global theater of the absurd we need not look any further than the list of outrageous
    Republican candidates for our Presidency. Their egos all are reflections of total separation from reality on myriad levels!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I suppose doctors are no different than others–they thrive in their comfort zones and are timid when forced to leave them. If dengue is unfamiliar and yellow fever familiar, then no wonder a doctor leaned towards the latter disease, not that it’s a good thing.

    Scapegoats are targets to take the heat in politics and everywhere but I can’t envision Bernie breaking out of his honest Abe mold to do such a thing as ordering someone to hack into Hillary’s database and then looking innocent when caught and pointing the finger at a campaign staffer.

    The woman with now frizzy/fuzzy hair remembered how she looked with wavy hair when young. Apart from what damage chemicals from a perm and dye do to hair, the wavy look may no longer be as attractive on this person’s current face.

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