Because I am a very logical person (I’m an actuary, and a mathematician by training), I like binary categories.  Either/or types of things, whether everything is either in one class of thing or another.  People find this type of thinking simplistic, but it naturally suggests itself all over the place, and is useful for understanding the world.

For example, my brother says “there are pianists and people who can play a piano, and if you don’t know the difference, I can’t explain it to you.”  In this case, he divided the world of people who can push down piano keys into two categories, thereby explaining that not everyone who plays the piano is, indeed, proficient or musical.  So that’s the way binary distinctions work.

Here are a few binary distinctions about people that I use in everyday life.  They are not, I believe, the typical ones people use.

  1. People Who Care If They Are Making Others Wait – Vs – People Who Do Not Care If They Are Making Others Wait.  I am in the first of these categories.  I am inevitably behind people from the second category: at the grocery store, at a fast-food drive-through, wherever.  These are people completely unprepared for whatever they happen to be doing; who don’t know what they want to order; don’t have access to their money or credit cards or whatever they pay with; and who feel like having long conversations with others (in person or on their cell phones) rather than finish whatever business they are conducting.  CONCLUSION: While the second class is indifferent-to-passively-hostile to the first class, the first class wants to SERIOUSLY INJURE people from the first class on a daily basis.
  2. People Who Do Things – Vs – People Who Criticize Others Who Do Things.  The second class of people here is a species of parasite who feeds on the first class of people like a host organism.  The Internet provides amazing opportunities (as WordPress does) for people who want to create, share, or self-publish… in other words, ways to DO things.  However, the truly explosive growth has been seen in the second class of people, who spread like a flu strain in places like Facebook and YouTube comment threads.  These are people who cannot play a sport, write a book, run for office, or, often, even hold down a job, but they are self-denominated-experts who are very disappointed with the products of people in the first class.  CONCLUSION: These two classes would physically fight on a regular basis, except the second class would end up having to do something, which never happens.
  3. People Who Understand Parking Lots – Vs – People Who Don’t Understand Parking Lots.  A “parking lot” has things called “parking spaces” where people can stop their car for whatever reason.  It also has things variously called “throughways”, “roads”, or even “aisles” where cars are supposed to move according to the usual traffic conventions.  If you are in the first class of person, you are wondering why I am telling you this.  If you are in the second class of person, you think every part of a parking lot is for parking, including the roads, throughways, aisles, curbs, entrances and exits.  As a matter of common observation, no conversation is quite so fascinating as the ones people have on cell phones while parked at parking lot exits, stopping other traffic from leaving.  CONCLUSION:  I write this to raise awareness about this important difference.  I do not expect anyone in either of these classes to change, because this appears to be an unbridgeable human gulf.  ALSO: has many similarities to category 1, above, as people who don’t care how long they make others wait also tend to park wherever they feel like.
  4. People Who Like Poetry – Vs – People Who Only Barely Qualify As Human Don’t Like Poetry.  I am not biased in any way on this one.  Actually, most people I know who claim to dislike poetry love it in other some other form or forms they don’t recognize as being poetry: rap music, song lyrics, nursery rhymes, greeting cards, mnemonics or even catchy alliterative names for days of the week.  CONCLUSION: Similar to the category of “People Who Don’t Like Music,” people truly in the second category here are to be pitied more than anything else.  In a strange twist of fate, “People Who Don’t Like Poetry” turns out to have a heavy overlap with “People Who Criticize Others Who Write Poetry” (see #2, above.)
  5. People Who Think Everything In The World Is About Them – Vs – Women.  I kid.  There are almost as many narcissistic women in the world as there are narcissistic men in my hometown.  Just jokes.  My wife has had to remind me from time to time that various events in her life (for example) have happened without being in any way referent to my existence.  I’m not entirely sure what she’s talking about, of course, because I am squarely in the first category of person.  CONCLUSION: This actually is a commonly used binary (men Vs women) and the subject of more blogs than there are fish in the sea, so I’ll stop there.
  6. People Who Think Everything Is A Competition – Vs – People Who Don’t Think Everything Is A Competition.  This is a troublesome binary, as pairs of these frequently marry each other. For reference, only people in the second category should ever get married at all: if you think marriage is a competition between partners, don’t bother doing it, you are going to fail.  CONCLUSION: If you are in the second category, carefully determine whether or not any prospective marital or life partner is in the first category, as typically, they find more satisfaction in divorce (which can indeed be a contest) than marriage.

Are there binaries you find useful in everyday life?  What conclusions can you draw from these distinctions?

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5 Thoughts to “Classy

  1. HA! I work at a university so there are lots of binaries. For example, those who have PhDs and don’t treat the rest of us like dirt VS. those who have PhDs and think anyone who doesn’t have one is a lower life form.

      1. There have always been, and will likely always be, people who think they’re superior for one reason or another. It seems to be an unfortunate part of human nature.

  2. Why here are two: People who have a sense of humor and those who don’t. You are wonderfully in the first group even though you might deny it. and those who laugh with you are also. the ones who think you’re nuts of course belong to the second group. On occasion you have suggested you might belong to the second group.
    Another binary category is people who are compassionate and people want to be but really aren’t. The first group frequently gets in trouble by sticking their necks out and getting too involved. The second group goes through all the motions and says the right things. I hope i don’t lose my head.

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