Okay, a bit of a misleading title, but I like it nonetheless.
I just had a minor bit of unpleasant SIWOTI, only in meatspace instead of On The Internet. I don’t think I handled it entirely appropriately but that’s mostly because as a nerd, these things do matter to me. But interacting with other people also matters to me.
Caribou Coffee is a local answer to Starbucks that falls about halfway between Tim Horton’s and Starbucks on the scale of fancy-fancy frou-frou (which is a scalar value, obviously). They have a trivia question on a chalkboard next to their menu every day, and getting it right will knock ten cents off your order. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a fun little thing. Today’s question was: “What is Mars’ gravitational pull (relative to Earth’s)?”
Being an amateur space and sci-fi junkie, I actually knew this answer off the top of my head — about one third, since Mars’ is 3.7-ish m/s2 (by my recollection), and Earth’s is 9.8. I said so while placing my order, and was told that I was wrong — that Mars’ is about 40% more.
I kinda balked a little, didn’t want to fight much but I did say that I thought she was wrong, and what the numbers were by my recollection. The order taker’s response was to say that they were given that answer, that they “liked astrology but doesn’t know a lot about it”. I let that comment slide, though I had to bite my tongue hard — instead, I suggested that others might argue with them and that they should be prepared to have that fight. I was told that I was the only one to have answered the question in the past two days that the trivia was up.
People shouldn’t need to know all these little trivia facts off the top of their heads, but they should at least Google them. I did so on my phone on the way to my office, and found that Google gave the exact gravity of 3.711m/s2 for Mars, and the first link said Mars’ gravity was “about 62% less than Earth’s”. Since that’s close to the inverse of 40%, I can’t help but think the correct answer just got mangled on its way to the baristas in a game of telephone, all the other wrongness here notwithstanding.
I came off as a jackass, trying to argue with a barista over ten cents. I don’t like that fact. But I also don’t like that people with the right answer would be given a “correct” answer that doesn’t even pass the smell test.
How would you have dealt with this?