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September 16, 2009

Needless disclaimers? (Also, meeting students is cool)

As many of you know, I'm a program assistant for the Master of Educational Technology at UBC. Being an online master's program, I rarely get to meet any of my students (I say "my" students despite just being the administrator for it; for some reason, I feel kind of parental about them even though half of them are older than I am).

I was leaving work today, with the rain pouring down in sheets like it hasn't in quite a while. Can't remember the last time I had to use my umbrella. I was walking toward the parking ramp, behind our building. The path is really only big enough for one person to go through, especially in the rain when you're not wanting to brush up against the bushes or anything. I was graciously letting this young woman pass before I stepped onto the path. When she passed me, she stopped and said "I recognize you."

It was one of my students! One who I had never met, but I did recognize her from her picture as well. I stuck out my hand and said "happy to finally meet you!" She backed off and said "I would shake your hand, but I'm kind of sick right now." She then proceeded to say "it's not that I don't want to, of course, but given what's going on now, I just want to be careful." Ok, that's a paraphrase, but it was something like that.

We chatted for a bit, but she was headed to her on-campus class (MET students are allowed to take up to 2 non-MET courses, and they can be on-campus if they wish). As I was walking away, I thought about how odd it was that she felt that she had to add that last bit. Very quickly, however, I realized that yes, she did have to add it.

In a logical world, she certainly wouldn't have to. Anybody thinking logically would have welcomed her reluctance to shake hands as soon as she said "I'm sick." Yet too many people, if she had left it like that, would have been offended anyway. Their minds would have stopped at "I don't want to shake your hand" and wouldn't have made that extra step to realize why she didn't want to shake hands. Because there are so many people like that, you have to play it safe and offer the explanation, even though there are quite a few times where it wouldn't be necessary, and would actually be quite redundant.

It's like those disclaimers in the TV ads. A car is roaring along the city streets at full speed, or driving over a bunch of hills, getting airborne at times. They have to put that disclaimer on there that says "closed course, professional driver, don't try this at home." Or the disclaimer on sleeping pills that says "may cause drowsiness!" What the hell? But, they want to avoid getting sued, and you know that someone would try it, get killed, and the family would sue the company. They're saving their own behinds and nobody can fault them for it.

Can somebody tell me when common sense became so uncommon?

One of my favourite Deadpool posters, and one that my wife bought.

Anyway, it was super nice to meet Megan, and I hope you get well soon if you happen to read this. It's one reason that we're starting to have graduation parties for our graduates, so we can finally meet some of them. It's always a pleasure.


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