Today someone told me in all seriousness, to my face, after discussing my upcoming move back to San Francisco, that he thought San Francisco was an intellectual vacuum. He may have meant all of California, I am not quite sure. Boston (and the East Coast) is more of a center of ideas, he said.
There are many responses I could have had to this.
I could have laughed it off and said, with my best Valley Girl accent, “Um, like, I don’t, like, know what you mean.”
I could have gotten defensive. I could have ridiculed him for being elitist and provincial and the kind of stiff East Coast person people in California make fun of.
I could have been honest and said that he had insulted me.
But no, here’s what I came up with: “I don’t know if I agree with you,” I said.
I don’t know if I agree with you? Way to take a stand, girl. You go.
What made this exchange all the more embarrassing and frustrating is that it went down like this:
Him: San Francisco is a place of intellectual vacuity.
Me (not hearing well): Intellectual what?
Me, in my head: What is he saying? Facuity? What does facuity mean?
Me, out loud: What does that mean?
Me, in my head: Oh, vacuity.
Me, out loud: “I don’t know if I agree with you.”
Later, it dawns on me that I never said out loud that he wasn’t enunciating well and I thought he was saying facuity, so he actually thinks that I don’t know what vacuity means; and therefore that I basically demonstrated the supposed intellectual vacuity of San Franciscans right there on the spot.