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Steve Hansen: Think you’re better than someone else? Think again

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 12:00 am

Being respectful to strangers is never a bad idea. One never knows who they might be. Here’s a story to illustrate my point:

Both of my sisters are dental hygienists.

One day, they took a continuing education class at the University of California, San Francisco. Most states require professionals to take these types of classes in order to maintain licenses. Dental hygiene is no exception.

Two handsome male dentists were positioned next to them. One of the young men started a conversation. It began with small talk and as most go in these situations, worked into occupations.

When these two guys discovered my sisters were hygienists, the conversation abruptly changed tone. My siblings could sense that these recent dental school graduates had a sense of arrogance. After all, they were “doctors” and certainly superior to lowly hygienists, who only take orders from their medical masters.

The conversation eventually waned as the lecture began. The presenter’s topic was oral pathology. This is the study of oral and paraoral diseases. There can be hundreds — even thousands — of examples

Upon concluding the general lecture, the professor projected 20 slides of tumors and lesions for all to see. He asked the participants to identify them. My sisters named 19. The snobby tooth extractors could only identify about half. As a matter of fact, Lori and Cher had more correct answers than anyone else in the room!

But there was still one example out of the 20 that no one could diagnose — including my sisters. The professor called a 15 minute break, which gave one of them time to act. She contacted a UC faculty member friend who was an expert in this area.

After Cher provided descriptive details of the tumor cells and circumstances in question, the friend responded in confidence: “Don’t tell anyone that I told you this.” Then gave her the exact diagnoses.

The class resumed. Everyone in the room, except the professor of course, was still unable to provide the correct response.

At the point when all had ceased guessing and abandoned any attempts to impress the leader, Cher stood up. In a gentle, yet assertive voice, she provided the solution to a mystery that had stumped all participants.

Of course, everyone was shocked. The two haughty dentists, who were so certain that no hygienist could possibly know more than they, sat dumfounded with mouths open, but no words coming forthwith.

After all, what could they say? These associates had been trumped big time by two lowly “girls” who clean teeth in a dental office.

How could my sisters possibly know such things?

The answer is simple. Because of a sense of narcissism and self-importance, these dentists had totally underestimated the situation. They had not considered the decades of experiences my two sisters had — along with formal educations that put them in the top one percent of their profession. Both had held faculty positions at University of California campuses.

Oh, yes. It also helped that they had learned much from our father, who at that time was chair of oral pathology at the University of California, San Francisco.

And so, there lies the problem with human arrogance. It can easily blind one to reality and cause each person who suffers from this condition to, as they say in the wacky world of clichés, “open mouth and insert foot.”

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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