Remember the dentist scene in the movie, “Finding Nemo”? A dentist was performing root canal under the constant gaze and sonorous commentary of a group of birds that apparently perched regularly outside the open window, affording them unrestricted views of the dentist’s work. The birds used what sounded like technical dental procedural jargon when they asked one another about the methods that the dentist used in the featured root canal.
Although the whole movie anthropomorphizes its largely animated animal cast, there is no implication that the birds possess any real credentials, experience, or expertise in dentistry, outside their observation perch—what I call “Spectator University.”
My bylines often describe me as a former or retired fraud investigator. Only a very few times did someone in my former company, but working in another field, ask me why I did not employ an investigative technique that they saw on a popular network TV show like “Law and Order” or follow a best- seller book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They, like the birds in “Finding Nemo,” were successful in life, but when it came to a certain line of work, they had degrees from Spectator University.
I bet that no matter your field, you know several of Old Spec’s alumni. Have you never cheered for its renown athletic team, the buzzing Wannabees? These are your friends and relatives who are inclined to offer medical diagnoses, legal advice, relationship evaluations, religious rulings ,and the like, where they are coming from a place of meaning well, but lacking any meaningful insight that isn’t informed by their own observations and research, not to mention that of their own friends and kin.
What to do? For starters, I refrain from sarcastic rejoinder such as a greeting card congratulating the graduate of Spectator University for his or her well-meaning, unsolicited observations. That’s not nice. The statue in front of Spec U reads, “Gotta be nice!”
ELLEN FISCHER IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.