Bewildered boffins

What is it about academics? They spend their ivory-towered lives researching facts, studying data, unravelling formulae, probing complex documents, noting and commenting, offering opinions, stating statistics and meticulously compiling peer-reviewed papers… and yet they cannot understand basic instructions in plain English.

During my various absences on long-term sabbaticals I offer my apartment in inner Melbourne for rental by academics around the globe ( My listing clearly states the apartment’s availability and goes into considerable details about its location, its amenities and its suitability (or lack of) for potential tenants.

Yet, time and again, I have to process requests for dates that are clearly stated as “non-available”. This, as I take care to point out, is a bachelor pad, ideal for one and possibly for a couple. So why seek occupancy for a family of five? It is a place totally unsuitable for young children and yet requests come in from couples with infants, with a couple of toddlers, and those into their teen years.

So what is it about these presumably intelligent, analytic, thesis-writing (and all very nice and friendly) people that makes them incapable of understanding what is presented to them in easily understandable terms?  How do they ever complete their degrees, write their papers, submit their dissertations?

Perhaps it is because, as long editing experience has shown me, they seek out the complex over the simple. They prefer seven words when three will suffice. They go for length over brevity. And all in the name of gilding the lily; adding an air of gravitas to the lightweight and cloaking the fact that they are merely stating the bleeding obvious.

They speak and write to each other but not to those outside their cloistered walls. But just in a while it would be good if they could remove the blinkers, read what is written and not distort it into non-existent data.

They are such lovely people and are welcome to stay awhile – but, as we are all urged to do, read the instructions first.

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