5 PLACES THAT MAKE ME FEEL SMART

library

Vibe is everything, don’t you think? Personally, I start to feel impending illness the moment I walk through the doors of a hospital even when I am only there as a visitor. I get a weird, “guilty-of-something” tingle up and down my spine whenever I sit in a school principal’s office, and just the paint colour at a spa makes me more relaxed. So when I want to feel smart, I head to one of the 5 locations that I can count on to give me that super-intelligent-I-can-do-anything feeling:

  1. The Library

The increase in my perceived IQ is directly proportional to the “poshness” of the library. Shallow, but true. Being surrounded by literature always makes one feel a bit smarter, but a trip to any book store can produce that effect. To take it to the extreme – to the point where I begin to truly believe that I will start reading the classics in my spare time – requires architectural greatness.

My city recently invested in a new library. It looks like something from a science fiction movie; all glass walls and layers of vast, shiny whiteness, intersected by crazy-wide staircases. Inside, I can purchase an over-priced coffee from a black-aproned barrista, which kickstarts the rise in my IQ (because SMART people do not get their caffeine-fixes from “cashiers” or “waitresses”).

There are rows of gleaming black laptops at the top of every staircase and a dizzying array of seating options, including group “pods” (where super smart people apparently go to bond), individual study “cubbies” (for those who are so smart that they must shield themselves from exposure to the less brilliant citizens milling about their space), and “lounges” with orange vinyl sofas and giant lamps with droopy, arched necks (which is supposed to make me feel like I am at home… if I lived in an orange vinyl house with aggressive, somewhat threatening lighting).

The pod-people and the cubby-people and, to a slightly lesser extent, the lounge-people are all very purposeful and focused. Walking among them leads me to conclude that I, too, must be purposeful and focused (although at this point I am often focused mostly on finding a bathroom since I have exceeded my capacity to retain coffee). Bladder limitations aside, I always leave the library with an armful of deep, meaningful books and a brain positively abuzz with a sense of self-importance!

  1. The Art Supply Store

Let me be clear on this… to achieve the desired IQ point elevation, I must go to an ART supply store (e.g. DeSerres). There can be no compromise. The effect cannot be emulated by visiting a CRAFT store (e.g. Michaels) or the “arts and crafts” section of a larger store (e.g. the back corner aisle of a Walmart). The ART store does not carry pompoms or popsicle sticks or scrapbooking papers because super smart people do not make pompom creatures with glue-on googly eyes, or popsicle houses, or photo albums with fabric covers and 3-D stickered pages

At the art supply store, everyone has tousled hair, and wears scarves and sturdy, army-style boots (even in the summer because they are air-conditioned by their innate “coolness”). Unevenly spaced aisles are unlabelled and disorganized and crammed with stacks of heavy items that seem about to topple over, but no one is afraid of tripping or falling or being buried under an avalanche of oil paints because they are all above such mundane concerns.

When I am in the art supply store, I too am above such things. I do not even consider asking about prices or return policies. Yes… that sketchbook is $19.99 but it is completely worth it. The $5.99 sketchbook at the Walmart may appear to be the same size and shape and may be made by the same company, but I am confident the pictures sketched in the art store sketchbook will be exponentially better!

My creativity soars in the art store. I become convinced that the only thing standing between me and artistic greatness is the lack of a really cool easel. I leave with $200 worth of oil paint (which I soon realize cannot be used in my unventilated home office unless I am willing to accept nausea and eventual hallucinations as part of my artistic process). But despite the expense and the eventual disillusion, a trip to the art store makes me believe, at least while I am there, that I am brilliant and that anything is possible.

  1. A Gallery of Any Sort

Visiting a gallery is a wonderful alternative to the art supply store because I can still be surrounded by tousle-haired, scarf-wearing intellectuals, but am at no risk of filling my limited closet space with abandoned paint brushes and half-completed canvasses. Wandering around in silence, examining everything with a wrinkled brow and a serious I-totally-know-what-I-am-looking-at look on my face makes me feel very, very smart (which is funny when I really think about it because I almost never know what I am looking at).

I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who isn’t really sure what the artist was trying to say when he or she splashed a bunch of yellow over a bunch of blue and then swirled it around with a glob of red. But these concerns vanish quickly as I convince myself that I DO see mankind’s struggle against himself. And even if I don’t… at least a few of the folks around me do and I can feel their super-smart auras wrapped around me.

I leave a gallery feeling way smarter than I was when I entered and I’m usually only out the cost of admission which is a real bargain!

  1. A Campus Coffee Shop

Please note that a Starbucks will not suffice; not even one with an electric fireplace and a fake leather sofa. To get the desired effect, the coffee shop must be independently owned and operated, catering almost exclusively to university students, professors, and local-area vegetarians. The coffee must be organic and free-trade, muffins must be gluten-free, and at least 50% of the menu items must include quinoa because super-smart people like socially-conscious drinks and foods with a slightly cardboard aftertaste.

Sitting in the campus coffee house gives me the same IQ rush as I get at the library AND adds that dollop of artsy-fartsy self-righteousness that might otherwise require a trip to the art supply store or a gallery.   I can tell that my fellow patrons are both intelligent and creative because they have both books AND tousled hair/scarves/army-style boots.

Everyone in the campus coffee house is left-leaning politically (I think it may be mandatory) and since I too tip to the left, I feel like I am part of the scene. I too am against poverty, and violence against women, and censorship! And by the time I choke down the top of my gluten-free-organic-blueberry muffin (no one can possibly swallow the hard, brown bottom of a gluten-free muffin!) I am ready to take on the injustices of the world, arm-in-arm with my almost-exclusively white, upper-middle-class coffee house comrades!

  1. The Apple Store

In a pinch, when I just need to breathe in a little intelligence, I like to pop into the Apple Store. At Apple, every staff member is super-chill, with matching t-shirts and happy-hippy smiles that say “I-drank-the-Koolaid-and-it-was-great!” I can putter around for as long as I like, looking at pretty screens on the laptops and letting them explain, in their youthful, earnest words, how everything in my life will be better as soon as I upgrade to the latest version of this, that or the next thing.

There is no dust in the Apple store; no clutter; no walls; just an Apple-patented Zen that sends my blood pressure down and my IQ up. I don’t know how Steve Jobs managed to create this illusion that the tiny silver apple was a symbol of intellectual superiority but kudos to him on the accomplishment. Because the Apple Store literally makes me feel smarter, even when I know I’m not buying any of the crap inside (because it is seriously overpriced and still made overseas by underpaid workers who are likely NOT impressed with the tiny apple).

These are the top 5 “Places that make me feel smart” but there are others. Museums can do the trick (but only if there aren’t school groups roaming free while I am there, because it does not feel smart to be hangin’ with a group of grade 3’s in the butterfly pavilion). The lobbies of fancy hotels work (but hotel security is unimpressed by loitering). And health food stores sort of do it, although I am not sure why (it may have something to do with the presence of vegetarians… they are a common denominator in many of my high-IQ destinations).

I try to get to at least one “smart” place every week because even if these trips don’t make me any smarter, they get me out of the house and out into the world of people and that’s got to be a good thing… for my IQ and my mental health.

Author: kim scaravelli

Kim lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with her long-suffering husband, an assortment of off-spring, a charming cat named Winnie, and a less charming (but oddly loveable) schnauzer named Buster.

15 thoughts

  1. Great list Kim. If I need to feel super intelligent, I try to walk among nerdish students in our local medical college, who are always on their computers or publishing papers in journals, or being high- achievers in all fields. By osmosis or diffusion, I hope to imbibe some of their knowledge and super-coolness.

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  2. Your insight into your ‘gut’ feelings is admirable. While reading I realized you are right, one does “feel” smarter in (your) mentioned places. Interesting!

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    1. I really think I am onto something. Maybe I could stop paying university tuition for my eldest and just send her to these places instead – ha ha! Even with the money wasted at the Art Supply store, I would sill be ahead by about $20,000 a year!

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  3. KIm, I am with you on the first four. We love museums and libraries in particular. I try to avoid places like Apple, AT&T, Verizon, etc. where you cannot be served without an extra dish of sales. Thanks, BTG

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  4. The only one I don’t get the same feeling is at the Apple store, probably because I’ve never been to an Apple store. I have a feeling though, that if I were there I’d feel dumber and less cool. As I press my nose up to the glass for a nano-second here in New Hampshire (it is too freakin’ cold to touch the glass for longer, plus it fogs up) and look at my car under a foot of snow, I feel the innate wisdom in your ability to get out of the house once a week, at least, and go to a smart place. (Or a pretentious place where people feign smartness and where it is fun to pretend along with them.)

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    1. You SO get me! A bit of pretentious ‘fakery’ is exactly what a work-from-home woman requires.. and when it comes with over-priced coffee it is even better!

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      1. Did you know there are places that sell $7 and up cups of brewed coffee? And those aren’t even fancy coffee drinks. They are from upscale coffee houses that have a direct link to specific coffee growers. I learned this from a great little documentary I recently watched. Imagine the pretentious possibilities there! (swoon) (I so want a $7 cup of coffee now.)

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  5. Book stores used to do it for me until they became everything stores, selling CDs and DVDs and games and all kinds of dangerous-to-my-purse stuff. Garry and I together in a bookstore is lethal and may bust the budget for at least three months.

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    1. I came home from Chapters bookstore last week with two candles and a toss cushion… and not so much as a paperback! Shame on me.

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  6. You nailed it again, Kim. The only exception is that I don’t feel smart in the Apple Store. I know my kids do (their brains are wired that way). I blindly make my way thru the tee-shirted Apple people with their ipads, big smiles, and big brains and generally plop on the stool at the back, pull my computer out and sit wide-eyed wishing my kids would sit there with me so that I could explain what is wrong with my Apple and then when I am told what is wrong I would actually be able to understand it. I often feel like I am in a foreign country and with little chance of understanding the language and simply hoping that the inhabitants will just be kind and fix whatever has to be fixed and then pass me back my computer so that I can do email and FB, because that is pretty much my limited scope of computers. I gave away an ipad I bought because I didnt think it was easy to use and then watched as my daughter took amazing photos on it as well as used it for all sorts of things that I never imagined possible. My ipod…well, my kids load that for me…I know how to turn it on (sometimes) and listen. The Apple store makes me feel like I need to run to a bookstore to breathe again and relax and feel smart again. I love art galleries because sometimes a painting just lures me in and I will stand there feeling connected to it and then my glasses on my nose feeling somewhat intelligent I only falter when the artist comes over to chat…then as I remove both feet from my mouth I head to the bookstore where I feel at home, friendly wonderful intelligent funny sweet people here at Cafe Books and then I head home to my stacked piles of books that I have every intention of reading, if I would just stay away from the computer for a day or a week or so. Kim, it is so refreshing to read your blog and see that other people think the same way. Thank you again.

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    1. Ha ha… I share your conundrum. I WANT to be the woman who reads War and Peace at night but often I AM the woman who slums it in facebook for awhile and then falls asleep in front of the TV!

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