Dealing with Dunderheads

What CWRU is really teaching

Abby Armato

My very first day of archaeology, I was more than content just zoning out. The professor spoke slowly with plenty of pauses, which would be wonderful if I was taking notes, but I was not. Instead, I busied myself plotting out a play I wanted to put on including where we would perform, what music we would use and how we could acquire 20-or-so plastic Christmas trees for the set.

It would have taken a miracle to pull me from my daydreaming. But that miracle came. It came in the form of one line, the most wonderful line a 60-or-so, white-haired, mild-mannered gentleman could ever say: “You occasionally run into a dunderhead; the world has plenty of dunderheads.”

I was not sure how to respond to this bit of brilliance aside from laughing and adding it to my class notes. My first instinct was questioning who says “dunderhead” anymore. My second instinct was questioning what exactly a “dunderhead” is. Yes, the word was hysterical, and the context suggested a meaning, but I had no idea what I was dealing with.

Google tells me that dunderhead actually means “a stupid person,” which I should have been able to guess from the context of our conversation. But Google also tells me that their definition is “informal,” which I interpret to mean “is flexible.”

So what is a dunderhead, as far as this article and I are concerned? I would say that a dunderhead is someone who does not see things quite the way you see them. Which, if you want to be insulting and rude about it, can be considered stupid. But the unfortunate reality is that we are always surrounded by people who do not see things they way we do.

For example, I do not think eating pizza while I shower is a good idea. However, there are people who think it is a lovely way to save time. More seriously, I think paper towels are a great invention. CWRU does not. Clearly, there is a lack of eye-to-eye action. So I give them a pretty label (eh hem, “dunderheads”) and try to move on.

But I cannot. Because I live with people who eat in showers and prefer obnoxious hand driers that do not help clean up paint that may have been accidentally smeared on the stairwell wall from the paint party to paper towels. I needed to find a way deal with these different kinds of people. So I collected advice from floormates:

Helen: “If they are super douchey, I just wait quietly and leave as quickly as I can.”
Sam: “I come [complain] about them to you.”
Emily: “I run away.”
Emily: “On second thought, I roll around on the floor and cry about it.”

While these are all very valid responses, I am not sure any of them would serve as a permanent solution to dealing with difficult people. Though I could argue that all would be appropriate responses to walking into your dorm and discovering a giant penis has been drawn on the pool table. Currently a white sheet has been laid over it like a cadaver. Welcome to CWRU.

So when a situation is not as extreme as a billiard boner, how do I cope? I think a step down would be the rude comments left on the bulletin boards in Leutner. While voicing our opinions is perfectly valid, some people take it too far. My personal favorite too-far card complained about the wait time at 6:15pm. I may be a first year, but I know that dinner anytime between 6:00 and 6:30 means a wait.

In that moment, I realized there was no real way to deal with dunderheads directly. I could not hunt down the commenter and inform them about the Leutner rush hour. I could not yell at everyone who leaves hair in the sink. I could not interrogate everyone in my dorm and see which dunderhead once again threw my laundry on the ground. All of this, I could not do, assuming I do not want to lose friends.

I cannot fix every dunderhead. But I can try to fix their effects. For Chef Mike, I wrote a comment thanking them for the wonderful gluten free meal and asking if they had gluten free pasta. A roll of toilet paper worked almost as well for cleaning up the smeared paint. I regret to admit that I have no solution for the pool table situation.

So, yes, my archaeology professor is right: There are dunderheads. But the point is simply that, while we may not be able to deal with dunderheads, we can work hard to add some positive to make up for them. And sometimes, if we give a little love, we can get a little love back. Chef Mike wrote a very hearty thank you and personally cooked my gluten free pasta. He delivered it steaming hot with a little garnish on top because he is the best.

Abby Armato is a first-year student currently majoring in English and anthropology. When she is not freaking out impending adulthood, she enjoys various strokes of creativity, determination and passion.