In my front yard.
I was crouched down by the paint brushes, straightening when the wife of the well-dressed couple approached me.
"I apologize for my husband's behavior," she said. "He shouldn't treat any human being like that."
She seemed like a nice person despite the condescending statement: any human being, meaning, even though you are not as exalted, you deserve to be treated well. All I could feel was pity for her, that she had to live with him. He was not nice. In fact, he'd deliberately challenged me with what he thought were his superior intellectual skills. I, after all, was just a hourly worker.
I almost told her to tell him, in a quiet moment, that the woman at the paint counter he thought was stupid was actually an engineer. But I didn't, because that brought me to his level and really, my degree didn't matter and she was right. He should treat all fellow humans with respect. For some people, money and educational degrees are not a way to better oneself, it is a way to feel superior to others, entitled even. "I am paying you, so I get to act any way I want."
The funny thing is that I was able to best him in his picked argument and it didn't require an engineering degree. We were discussing paint with and without primer. I explained that the primer-containing paint dried twice as thick as the one without.
"How much wall space does each gallon cover?" he asked.
Up to four hundred square feet. He began to bluster that if one paint went on thicker than the other, then mathematically that was impossible. He began throwing out numbers. I breathed deeply and tried to calm myself. You might be right, I explained, mathematically if the paint went on differently, but chemically, the paints dry differently, leaving one thicker than the other. I was taught this at work and on the Internet, not in engineering school.
"Well, you've got me there," he said. It didn't improve his disposition. It was a Friday night. Had he been drinking? As I saw on a sign, I'm not a proctologist, but I know an asshole when I see one.
But then, I turned his behavior around on myself. Was I ever the person that was impatient or thought I was better than the person serving me. I know I have been. At first, I was a bit ashamed of not having a professional job, but now it is a way to see things from another perspective and analyze why I would feel that way. Why would I think that degree makes me better than anyone? Why should it validate me?