#441: Never Trust the Angels

February 20th, 2015

A rumbling, trundling train shikky shaking south on the Brown Line tracks, the car’s floor whitened with the dusky winter swirls of dripped then dried snow and salt from commuter boots.

And an ad on the wall saying Le Cordon Bleu is “The #1 Culinary School in America*”

So, they’re, like, good? They won some award? They’re top in national rankings? What was the smiling young chef in a Brown Line ad trying to tell me?

I followed the asterisk down to the fine print at the bottom of the sign. “Le Cordon Bleu in North America had more culinary graduates in the USA than any other national network of culinary schools, for the years 2006 to 2012.”

Even smaller print on a postcard that you could rip off the sign and send to Le Cordon Bleu for more info said “Credits earned at Le Cordon Bleu are unlikely to transfer externally…”

I ripped off a card and snapped two pictures of the sign. It was for my journalism class.

There’s a lot of bullshit in the world, from cooking school ads to my 150-ounce laundry detergent bottle’s big swooping label that says “50% MORE OUNCES” and little fine print that clarifies it means more than 100-ounce bottles.

But those are just fibs and equivocation to get a couple bucks out of our pockets. For the big-deal whoppers, find the good guys.

I tell my students not to trust good people. No one will lie, cheat, manipulate or BS quicker than someone who believes in what they’re fighting for.

There was an ad once at a Metra station that said three out of four teenagers believe having easier access to marijuana may accelerate teens in trying other drugs. It was for a rehab center in my hometown.

I don’t like marijuana — I think it’s a gateway to jam bands — but I hate bullshit more. What does “accelerate” mean? Who were these teenagers? How was the poll conducted? What was the source of this information presented as fact to the thousands of people who take Metra each day?

And mainly, who cares what teenagers think? Teenagers also think wanting to kiss someone who doesn’t want to kiss you is worth writing bad poetry over. If a bunch of them taking a poll managed to guess the actual causal factors of experimental drug usage in their peer group, that would be quite remarkable.

I traded a few emails with the PR rep for the rehab center, trying to get any methodology or information they had on the poll. Once she found out I wasn’t working for an official news outlet, she stopped responding.

She used to write for my hometown paper. I grew up reading her when she told the truth for a living.

Maybe the cooking school is great and can teach you to spatchcock, concasse, sous-vide, en vesse and other cooking terms I’m looking up on Wikipedia right now with the best of them.

But if they had any way of saying they were good, wouldn’t they? All they had was pointing out they’re big.

I can tell my students about laundry detergent and cooking schools, explain shell bills and get them to dig into candidate D-2s, but the only real lessons are these:

Always read the fine print. Always learn what words could mean. Always ask why, how, who and cui bono.

And never trust the angels.

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