Smart people are different from you and me

Smart people are different from you and me

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to get out of my office to be around smart people for a change. Don't misunderstand me: My colleagues are very sweet, but unless there is a Nobel prize for drinking coffee, I see no awards from the Stockholm committee in our future.

My workplace is where there is a sign above the pantry sink telling people that food objects larger than the holes in the drain cover will not pass through. Yet, every day, there are people here who would deny the truth of the sink holes.

So, seeking the company of high-powered minds, I hung out with some Mensans. Mensa is an organisation of people with high IQs. They were having a big Asian pow-wow and dozens of members from across the region were gathering to make merry at Hotel Re! for a few days.

I wanted in: I had hoped that by pretending to be a member of a tribe of really clever people, I would absorb their powers, or at least walk away feeling so stupid that I would turn my life around and start, you know, reading books and stuff like that. At the door to the hall, I met Mr Patrick Khoo, the president of Mensa Singapore, who had told me that when Mensans gather, a few things can be expected: fun, enjoyment and drinking, not necessarily in that order. I felt relief. Those are concepts I am not unfamiliar with.

When I walked in, I had a pang of worry. Could they smell the dumb? Would they turn on me, and tell me their village had no place for an idiot?

The fear of being outclassed intellectually, of being insecure in one's own power of reasoning is a feeling I deal with constantly. I suspect I am not alone; it's a pretty common Singapore neurosis. In my time, we were split into A, B, C and D classrooms in primary and secondary school. At my school, A classes were for the bright kids, and so on down the line until the D class, which, to my young mind, was the place where academic dreams went to die.

I was in C classes much of the time, and I might have been in a D class once and for that entire year, neither of my parents could look at me without sighing. The first thing I saw when I walked into the hall was that everyone was playing a brain game, one of several that afternoon. This is the thing about Mensan events - these people love puzzle-solving. The harder, the better. Even the ice-breaker was a game. They ran around asking questions of strangers until there were enough answers to fill a grid.

For Mr Khoo and his committee, keeping Mensans occupied and happy must be like being a teacher in a gifted class.

The stress must be killing. I spoke to several of them that afternoon.

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