Fakin’ It

For a time, I knew Len Williams better than anyone. He was a Jacksonville boy, born and bred. In the ’50s and ’60s (and ’40s, when he was born) Jacksonville was little more than a Southern backwater with all the sophistication you’d expect to find in a cracker town of 700, despite its size (the city consolidated with the county in 1967 and is still the largest municipality by area in the country). Throw in three Navy bases and Jeff Foxworthy’s definition of redneck—“a glorious absence of sophistication”—was embraced by much of the populace.

Len was the embodiment of that characterization. Oh, he’d been in the Air Force and served in Germany and seen a lot of the world, but you can take the boy out of the country…At any rate, Len and I hired in together, went through Flight Data and AOS schools together, worked Flight Data together, although he lived in Jacksonville and I lived in Hilliard for the first six or so months. He observed the amount of time I spent driving into the city for single male adult pursuits and suggested I move down there. He was kicking a girlfriend out of his apartment so had some room.

That worked for a little while (probably no more than a month—I can’t remember). Then we decided that Northsider though he was, the action was on the Southside (the St. Johns River is the defining feature of the distinction, although technically there’s a Westside, too). So we went apartment hunting and wound up with a nice looking two bedroom place right across from where the car pools all met to make the 30+ mile drive to Hilliard. Unbeknownst to us, there turned out to be something of a disparity between us and the rest of the demographic of the complex, by some twenty years. We were invited to take early leave of our one year lease after only about six months.

From there, we moved to another complex, although to our own apartments. Apparently my lack of sophistication didn’t dovetail with his, and although we got along fine and worked well together, we really weren’t cut out to be roommates. My story goes on to how I met my wife at that next place, but that was a year and a half later and is a story told elsewhere. Len, in turn, solidified, and ultimately solemnized, a relationship he had started when we were in the previous apartment. They’re still married, too.

I said all that to get to this. It was my observation during that roughly eighteen month period of class together and rooming together that Len was a whole lot smarter than he let on. In fact, I’ve never known anyone to put so much effort into playing dumb, but play it he does. I theorized that he was either uncomfortable with being perceived as being on the right side of the bell curve or he preferred the target rich environment he found fishing in the shallower end of the gene pool—and by that, I mean female. Many of his male friends were actually quite bright (which includes all his controller friends) but he still doesn’t let on.

He played it so successfully that very recently (Spring 2009) I was having a chat with an old workmate of ours—someone who hadn’t had any interaction with Len since around 1976, and my friend mentioned how dumb Len was. I disabused him of that and related the above. He was shocked, naturally, which is a further testament to how good Len fakes it. Indeed, a glorious absence of sophistication. If Len were to read this, he’d tell me to shut up—not that my assessment is inaccurate—he doesn’t want anyone to know.

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Last updated: 24 April 2009