The Tenacity Of Rationalization
I read this post, about a professor so aloof he couldn't engage in small talk with his (suspiciously stereotypical) plumber. The consensus is that this refusal is a form of classisim or elitism, as the professor is effectively saying to the plumber that the plumber is so beneath the professor, his interests so gauche that the professor has gone out of his way to avoid having any common cultural reference points, that the professor can't even show him recognition as a human being rather than a pipe-fixing automoton.
My thought process went something like this:
Well, I probably wouldn't engage in much small talk with a plumber either. But it's not because I'm elitist and I think I'm better than him.
Oh really? Try me.
I don't really make small talk with anyone. It's nothing against the plumber -- I wouldn't make small talk with other academics, either.
The plumber doesn't know, or care, what you do around other academics. The issue is that you've committed an actual slight against him, a slight which, given its context, will function to reinforce class-based elitism. What you do to anyone else is beside the point.
But I'm just not good at that kind of socialization. I'm an introvert -- so where's the sympathy for how these kind of social interaction expectations disadvantage me?
Don't think about pulling that "reverse discrimination" crap. Social interaction is a learned skill -- a skill you can choose to learn, or choose to not learn because you've got something else oh-so-important to spend your time doing. If anything, being able to be introverted (not to be confused with withdrawing as a self-defense mechanism) is a privilege, not a source of disadvantage.
OK, so I won't make this all about me and my needs. But when I try to put myself in his shoes, I think that if I was a plumber, I'd want to be left alone to do my job in peace. After all, back when I was stocking shelves in the grocery store, I hated it when people tried to make small talk with me.
You say it's not going to be all about you, and yet it still is. For starters, what you would want in his position has exactly nothing to do with anything. What matters is what he wants in his position. Then there's your wank-tastic example of being a shelf stocker back in college, as if that means you're down with the hoi polloi. Take a second to think about why you hated people talking to you so much. It's not just some innocent aspect of human diversity. It's probably because you were (consciously or unconsciously) embarassed about working such a menial job.
And if I'm honest with myself, at the end of all this, if I had to have a plumber over tomorrow, I'd still end up going in the other room while he worked. And I can't be entirely sure that my italicized anti-rationalization voice isn't just rationalizing my elitism in a different, sneakier way.