Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pandora's Guide to Subsets

Subset [suhb-set] – noun

1. a set that is a part of a larger set.
2. Mathematics . a set consisting of elements of a given set that can be the same as the given set or smaller.

Why is it that subsets plague me? I look around and there are all these little groups of people who walk the planet who are a part of the community who do some very strange things. These people, who do these very strange things, are part of a subset.

People who belong to these subsets tend to be ridiculed for their inclusion in these groups. Often they have no idea why they're being ridiculed. Sometimes, we have no idea why we put these groups up to jest. It's never malicious - more a gentle taking of the piss. I mean, if you're into medieval recreations, decoupage or Dungeons and Dragons - WHAT THE HELL DO YOU EXPECT?

People who are part of subsets will sometimes laugh along at the knowledge that they're part of one of these groups. Some people might be a part of one or more subset - take Popeye, my old boss. A ginger, left-handed engineer. Three subsets there, and he's proud to a member of all of these groups. Sad bastard. Some people would bea little offended if they knew.

I mean no harm here.

Also, there are some subsets that aren't subsets. Some things just are just life and they are to be accepted. Like people who don't like tennis aren't a subset - we're just sensible. People who don't like chocolate - now that could technically be a subset, but there are more people than you know who don't give a damn about the sweet brown stuff. Same as those who like oysters. It's a choice, not an inclusion into a group that makes you a bit strange.

The thing about subsets - you don't mean to judge these people - you just do. My friend Gerry is king of the subsets - forever pigeonholing people, but happily a member of a few subsets himself. He knows me as his ambidextrous, witchy, running , neo-leftist, Croweater mate of his wife. To me he's a volleyball playing, suburban, career public servant, country boy. We accept each other as is. Bless.

So, with bated breath, Pandora's Guide to Subsets who give her most amusement and joy, knowing that there are many more - and knowing full well that I'm going to get in trouble.

1) Engineers

I do love engineers, but they really are a subset. Engineers appear to be what has evolved from the spotty guy in your science class that wouldn't say boo to a goose and got the best marks. Smart, not particularly trendy with a penchant for looking at their feet and either mumbling or talking too loud. They've grown up to be capable, handy though not particularly social - and they rely a bit too much on beer. They marry capable women who they know can look after themselves - though they make a pretty good effort at taking care of the people they like and love. Somewhere between university and work they discovered personal hygeine - for the most part. Odds on, they were affectionate little boys until they fell in love with their Commodore 64.

Engineers are great when you need something fixed - and they normally do a good job of it. Payment with a batch of biscuits and a few "Oh, you're so clever, I could never do that..." with your head tilted on the side will make them come back to do more odd jobs.

Gotta love engineers.

2) People who don't have a mobile phone

There are these people about - but I'm not sure I know of anybody who doesn't have a mobile. I have a lot of friends in the subset who either leave their mobile off or leave it at home a lot, but I can't think of anybody who doesn't have one.

Part of me ponders that people who don't have a mobile are really quite sensible. Many of these people are over the age of sixty or under the age of ten. Some don't have the funds to support a mobile. That's fine. But not having a mobile. Hmmm. For the better part of three years I had two of the buggers.

Mind you, there used to be a subset of people who didn't have a land line - that is a group that grows by the day.

3) People who work down St Kilda Road

I've always been a city dweller, working within the 3000 postcode for work. St Kilda Road may as well be another country. A lot of disparate people appear to work down that way by the looks of the people on the trams. Second tier companies, women in slacks and jumpers, call centres... It's a place that a lot of people work, but why? Why would you WANT to work in a place it will take a train AND a tram to get there? Plus, there are next to no shops, sandwich bars, watering holes and other amenities. It's not a bad place for runners to work as it's very near Albert Park Lake and the Tan - but that's all I see going for it.

Okay, there are some pretty cool companies down that way - I just don't get why they aren't located somewhere easier to get to.

4) Runners

A subset to which I'm proud to belong.

Runners, by definition, are nutters. There are also subsets of runners - short distance, weekend, long distance, freaky ultra-marathoning-over-big-mountain runners for example. Runners nearly didn't make the list - but I have to put them down. We are a bit freaky. Most of us are in some sort of pain some of the time. You get injured every so often. People shout at you as you pound down the road at whatever time of the day or night. But you love it, and you do it. There is no competition except the one you have with yourself. It's a form of fitness training and meditation all rolled into one. And you can never be an ex-runner. You're either a runner, or your not. And once you're a runner, you're always a runner. You may not have run for months or years - you're still a runner.

We know we're a bit odd. But we also tend to know when to shut up. We'll talk distance, times, farklets, hill sprints and events among ourselves.

5) Lefthanders

Strangely, a lot of engineers fall into this subset.

It used to be beaten out of people - no wonder lefthanders get a bit defensive.

Rather than use this one as a form of ridicule, it's subset of people I always find surprising - and a little interesting - I mean, have you ever watched a lefthander write? It can, but not always, look awkward - and you want to ask why they don't use their other hand.

I won't make too much of this one as I'm ambidextrous - so I'm halfway there. My mother is lefthanded. Don't get me to use scissors with my right hand - I can't. But it is interesting that almost double the number of Geminis are lefthanded than any other star sign. I also can't get over how many left handed doctors, engineers and scientists I know.

6) People who don't feel the cold

These people are very often English football supporters. You see them in the stands at Manchester United games. It's snowing. They're wearing a t-shirt.

People who don't feel the cold are a subset. Thongs in winter. They never have a coat or a cardigan with them. They rarely have their heating on in winter. The windows are open year round. And they will never go on a tropical holiday. Others get very mad at them when they say "It's not cold, get a grip." They're often told top "Put some bloody clothes on and shut that window while you're at it."


Ooops - I've just described myself and half my family.

7) Men who wear short-sleeved business shirts

Unless you work in the tropics, the airlines or the post office, there is NO excuse for short-sleeved business shirts. Often the domain of men over 45 named Darren, Trevor or Wayne, these men often like to wear their short-sleeved business shirts with long shorts, long socks and sandals, these icons of style appear only to be available in poly-cotton, or polyester blends.

Best worn with a tie, these men have a few things in common - often they're ex-forces, often they're over 45 and all of them think they're very stylish.

Love 'em. They just look WRONG.

8) People who talk to people they don't know on the tram/train/bus

Without exception, people who talk to people they don't know on the tram/train/bus (for more than a "Where is the next stop?", or "Do you have the time?" type questions) come into two distinct groups.
a) Those who are on drugs
b) People from the country.

The second group are much more lucid and far more pleasant. (And often , if they're not from the country, they're from Adelaide)

9) Grunty-boy body builders

I don't get grunty-boy body builders. I get people who do weights. I don't get those who bulk up to the max and model themselves on Arnold Schwartzenegger. Those strange, large, hulking masses of men who exclusively smell of tuna, ketones, sweat and stale protein shake.

Seriously, I get what it is to have good muscle definition. I even get what it must be to have chest muscles and defined abs, legs, arms and a butt. I'm talking about those who LIVE at the gym, grunt a lot and can't get shirts to fit - and often if you look at these blokes, they often neglect their legs and they're all out of proportion.

The biggest reason I don't get grunty-boy body builders - why would they want to make their muscles so big? Wouldn't that make their willies look tiny?

10) Career Public Servants

Public servants are a breed apart. They talk their own language. It may as well be Swahili. They get rostered days off, extra superannuation contributions, leaves for all sorts of strange things and NOBODY really knows what they do. I'm not sure some of them know what they do. As somebody who's only worked in corporates, I don't get this breed of people who talk of pay grades, government movement, ministerial papers, politicians and privileges. Especially when they don't seem to be that privileged at all - they also tend to work every hour God gives them and do a lot of flying about the place.

The public servants know are lovely peple - I just don't have a clue what they do at work - or how they go about their days. It all seems to be very heavily controlled by the PC police. Mind you, they don't get me and my corporate Australia views, the fact that I ran a beer club - without getting in trouble, or the fact that I say jump and shit happens.

The nearest I got to the Public Service was a six months stint at the Public Trustees. There were lots of people in cardigans who hung out for tea break at 10.30....

Wonder how much trouble I'll see?
Pandora smiles.



no-one said...

In my job i see a lot of couples who share a mobile phone which I just don't get. What if you're both out, at separate places and you need to get in touch with your partner, but they're the one with the phone that day. You can't always count on their being public phones or kind strangers around to help you out.

no-one said...

*there*. No excuse for bad spelling.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

A most entertaining post that made me laugh - particularly your take on engineers - a subset to which I belong (of course).

Do I fit into your view of engineers?

Well let's see...

(1) Shy and got good marks? Check!
(2) Not trendy? Check!
(3) Look at feet? Nope - too much intersting stuff to look at!!
(4) Marry a capable woman who can look after herself? Check!
(5) Personal hygiene? I've ALWAYS had good personal hygiene.
(6) Fell in love with a Commodore 64? Nearly - A BBC Microcomputer.
(7) Like pople to give me biscuits and say "You're so clever?" Check - though I prefer beer.

One woman I know actually was scared to talk to me because she thought I was too clever - she soon worked out that I am an idiot with a sense of humour too - and we get on really well.

Like you say, Pand - gotta love engineers!

Great post.




Elisabeth said...

I suppose people who blog might also form a subset, as might those who read blogs, as might those who oppose all things virtual and so it goes, subgroups everywhere. Yours are pretty original. Thanks.

Kath Lockett said...

I loved these and even found bits of myself in a few of 'em.

Love Chunks is a physicist/mathematician/meteorologist who is left-handed, so he clearly supports your theory!

And I chat to strangers on public transport but like to think that it's not due to drugs or still having the Murray Bridge twang of 25 years ago - just that I'm a weirdo I guess. :)