I went to an Ivy League school, but don't "get" Sudoku. Where does that put me on the spectrum of intelligence?
by Jane D.
I’ve been fascinated lately with the definition of intelligence. Most certainly, I take a look at my Ph.D. swim friend, who seemed like a blushing, bumbling boy when I attempted to put the moves on him. A girlfriend says that men as such have big brains, but are “socially retarded.”
The other day we went to a big drinks event and met yet another Ph.D., who acted like a child as we nursed our beers and chatted. “I’m hungry,” he whined, like a 5-year-old. He repeated himself and pouted until we sat down. And then he wolfed down the ribs and licked his fingers, and didn’t offer a morsel of conversation. When he was satisfied he sat in silence. (And here’s someone with degree overload.)
This is a bit of a tangent, or tease, to the real crux of this blog entry....
Almost two months ago, I signed up to be a guinea pig for a bunch of scientists at a medical center. I had canceled at least a dozen times because my sense of time completely sucks. But unconsciously, I’ve been avoiding it.
The fact that I’ve been accepted as a guinea pig means that there really is something, well, wrong or different about me. And the research doctor’s assistant was patient enough to deal with the litany of cancellations because, well, I must really be quite an interesting specimen.
But I basked in the specimen spotlight because, for a rare moment in my life, I was actually much wanted like a celebrity. I am that oddball—the ADD chick who went to an Ivy League school, but who can’t figure out the tip on the bill.
Well, I finally made it for the IQ part of the test this week. I laugh as I write this, because I’ve never taken an IQ test in my entire life, and the cynic in me never subscribed to what I consider bullshit.
Flashback to IQ tests: I sit at a child’s play table across the test-giver, a young woman who looks as fashionable and put together as me. The IQ test is 3D, coming in the form of flash cards, blocks, puzzles, and a flipbook that faces the test-giver. I won’t ever know what is really going on, but it makes me antsy not knowing what is in that book and what the answers are.
I roll my eyes when asked some questions that seem so basic. “What is 5 plus 3?” Eight. “Repeat these numbers after me in parrot-like fashion: 1,2,5,6." I speed-read back. Yay. One point for me.
“What is summer?” A season. “What is the similarity between a table and a chair?” Furniture. There’s a part of me who overthinks the questions. Summer could be a name, right?
The tests are humiliating at times, and I feel like a swimmer who is off the starting block and forgets how to stroke. I am given numbers and told to say them backward. I am given flashcards with action-like sequences: Man goes to Laundromat, man takes out dirty laundry, etc.
But I find myself struggling to do even these, because in my imagination, there are several scenarios. A man and a dog are at a storefront; a man is jumping over the fence to escape the barking dog. Could it be that the dog turned on its owner, or maybe that is the way that the man adopted the dog in the first place. An orphaned dog chases after him and they become a pair?
The part that is most laughable is I am given these blocks with different-colored sides on them, and told to make them into the pattern on the flashcard. I feel like I am being told to read a book in Swahili. Are you kidding me? I think. But I know I need to put in an effort so, as the stopwatch goes, I take the task of putting together a pattern slowly.
In the end it takes me about eight or 10 minutes to complete what I believe is a complex pattern. I feel secretly proud. A gold medal for the ADD me. No wonder I could never play mahjong and once flung a Sudoku puzzle book to the side when I couldn’t “get” any of it.
But I find myself telling the test-giver, “I don’t have an answer,” when she throws math-related questions at me. If Tommy bought a pack of gum for 60 cents, how much is each gum if there are five sticks, and what if the gum were 20% off?
I look like a deer caught in headlights. Hey, what are calculators for? I see the IQ score dropping as I am asked the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius. How did I ever get through school and get into two stellar universities? At the end of the IQ session, I can only laugh and think, “Hey it’s OK, there are certain things you are good at.”
I am of the belief that intelligence is a rainbow-like spectrum. There is Phelps, king of the pool—but clueless, maybe, in the classroom. There is the new boyfriend, a music teacher who is solid at piano-playing, but roams around like a blind ferret when I give him directions to where I live.
As for my own “idiocy,” I’m not sure if it is impatience, lack of willpower, one’s genetic roots, all the candy I ate as a kid, or maybe simply being numbers-phobic. If anything though, I left that windowless playroom feeling liberated. I could look at myself, at all of my triumphs and tribulations, at all of the beauty marks and warts, and laugh. Well I’m just not good with numbers. It is okay to use the EZ-tip calculator on the cell phone.
The head of the study, a pretty Ph.D., said that the results should arrive in several weeks. I had come in the name of science, in the hope that people like me be could be better understood, but in the end, a score (a number in itself) doesn’t matter. I’m genius enough to know that I’m anything but an idiot.