Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Average Jim

From Frontiers in Perception Science
Jim Smith is an ordinary man living an ordinary life. He is 5' 10.2". He weighs 177.9 pounds. He earned last year, rounded to the nearest dollar, $46,326. He has 2 children (rounded to the nearest child.) Amazingly, even though no one considered race as a factor, he is 3/4 Caucasian, 1/8 African American and 1/8 Hispanic. He is an average American. He is so average, in fact, he's unique.

Once he's identified, the media descends on him and he's no longer living an ordinary life. While the media frenzy lasts only as long as such frenzies do, he is now known to everyone in town and a week doesn't go by when someone doesn't want a picture with him or want to interview him.

He becomes so representatively average of regular people in the minds of his fellow townsfolk, he's elected mayor. While the salary is more than the average, he says he'll only accept the average American salary. Which endears him even more.

Jim watches his weight. (He even double checked on that vasectomy he'd had two years before.) Then at his yearly check up the doctor gives him the horrific news: he's shrunk. He's 5' 9.9". This is perfectly normal, his doctor reassures him. Everyone shrinks with age.

But, no, this is terrible! He's no longer the most average man in America! He'd lived his whole life being so average no one noticed him. Which he thought he had been okay with. But now he realizes how great it was to be unique.

So what does Jim do? Does he find a way to be unique again or does he come to accept that being just average average is okay?

There's a book about such a search The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation's Most Ordinary Citizen. :-)
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