Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Situational Awareness Quotient

I find that I tend to get irritated at people on a pretty regular basis. When I think about it, I don't really believe that most people are jerks, are stupid, or do the things they do with the express intent of making my day a little less enjoyable. The problem, I believe, is that people are simply not aware.

With this in mind, I'd like to introduce the concept of the "Situational Awareness Quotient" (SAQ). This term is probably new to most readers. While I wish I could claim to have invented it, the origins of the SAQ go way back to a fairly popular Usenet News group many, many years ago. If you're reading this and you don't remember Usenet News, ask your grandparents about alt.computers, or rec.camping.nudist, or whatever they may have been into before you were born.

The SAQ is a vague, fairly subjective measure of a person's ability to get along in a world surrounded by other people without causing those other people to want to slam them up against a wall and point out that there's a line of folks at the vending machine while they've been feeding the same torn, faded, stained dollar bill into it for the past 10 minutes.

So one wouldn't want to try to be accurate in these ratings. It's more on the level of a gut feeling than anything that could be accurately placed on a 1-to-100 scale. Generally, the ratings for a person's SAQ will range somewhere between "nonexistent" and "extremely high".

Let's try a couple of examples: Herbert is in the grocery store. He manages to stop in the middle of an aisle and leave his shopping cart diagonally across it in such a way that traffic in both directions is completely blocked. Herbert then proceeds to compare the price, ingredients, nutritional information, city of origin, customer service phone number, and expiration date on every single can of kidney beans on the shelf. Traffic backs up in both directions. Someone may move Herbert's cart to get by. Someone may say "excuse me". If Herbert does not respond, then he has an SAQ that is somewhere very near to "nonexistent". If Herbert should look up and move his cart, then his SAQ goes up a notch. If he moves his cart and apologizes while doing so, then he moves up another notch. However at this point there's no way that Herbert can hope to raise his SAQ anywhere much above "pretty low". The only way that Herbert could have accomplished this would have been to understand that he's in a grocery store and that he should move his cart to the side, out of the way, if he wants to read kidney beans.

As you can see, it is difficult, once established, to move up on the SAQ scale. It's actually quite easy, however, to move down. This leads us to our next example, and one with which we're all familiar. You're sitting in a nice restaurant and, suddenly, a small child in the room begins to make a sound as if it were undergoing an appendectomy without the benefit of anesthesia. If a parent immediately jumps up, picks up the child, and removes him/her from the restaurant until things have calmed down, then that parent's SAQ would have to be rated at "pretty darned high". The only thing that would prevent it from being "extremely high" at this point would be the argument that a small child shouldn't be taken to a nice restaurant in the first place. (Feel free to discuss this among yourselves.) In any event, every second that the parent sits there and does not remove the screaming child from the room lowers that parent's SAQ at least several notches. If the parent sits there and never does anything, then it doesn't take long for the SAQ to reach "nonexistent". Alternatively, even if the parent does leave immediately with the child and waits for it to calm down, every time they return and the child goes ballistic again then the parent's SAQ goes down another notch. In this case, the scale is logarithmic. If it happens twice, it's almost all right. If it happens the third time, then perhaps some other strategy is in order. By the fourth time, that parent's SAQ has bottomed out and there is no way they can hope to have the respect of others.

One of the more interesting things about folks with a low SAQ is that they simply can't see it in themselves. Like drug addiction, obesity, or a bad sense of style, it's much easier to see a low SAQ in others. If you've read this far and thought to yourself, "Wow, I'm glad none of that applies to me", then perhaps it's time for your friends to organize an intervention.

So that's the SAQ. Depending on how satisfying I find this whole blogging experience, I will over the next few weeks or months be publishing SAQ ratings on a variety of topics. It is both a blessing and a curse that there seems to be an endless supply of material out there which simply screams for an SAQ rating.

Thank you for reading my blog.


lacochran said...

You're welcome. Entertaining post. Thanks for sharing.

Gilahi said...

Glad you enjoyed it. You're very welcome.

Amol said...

hmmm.. thats interesting.. i would really like to read much about SAQ

Gilahi said...

Wow. I believe this was my first ever blog entry from about a year and a half ago. Thanks for the comment! We just got back from a vacation and, believe it or not, there's something stewing in my mind right now on this very subject.

Thanks for the visit and comment.

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