I live in a beautiful, historic mansion a few miles from Hollywood. Now and then, our building is used for film shoots. Today is one of those days. An episode of the TV show “Veep” is being filmed just below my office.
Yesterday was setup. A small number of crew quietly moved around. Before I knew it, they were gone. This morning, the full crew didn’t arrive until 9:30 am, later than the 6 am startup time I’ve come to expect for this kind of thing. As the crew moved equipment to and fro, I noticed how calm and paced they were — far from the self-important people and frenzied pace that’s been apparent on other shoots.
I shared my observations at breakfast this morning in the common dining room with my building mates. “Oh, the crew is laid back because they’ve done this kind of thing before,” stated one person matter-of-factly. “Maybe they know they don’t have much to shoot today, so they’re taking it easy,” said another. “Julia Louis-Dreyfus is older, the cast is older. It’s not a millennial crew,” said a third. “It’s a smaller cast, Julia won’t be here,” from a fourth. Each of these people shared with conviction. The words “I think,” “Maybe,” and “My opinion is,” weren’t used. By the time the conversation ended, I’d heard over half a dozen different explanations for the same behavior. Each of these was, in fact, opinion. It was speculation, guesswork. None of these people knew what they were talking about. And yet, opinions were shared in a way that was meant to sound authoritative. Not.
How often do we invent reasons to explain something that we don’t know diddly squat about? And how often do we act on that information, as though it’s God’s truth?
Before I chose my current home, I asked area residents about the building and neighborhood. I heard a wide range of opinions, all said with complete confidence and the ring of authority. Some of those opinions made sense to me, some were clearly far-fetched. I made a decision based on some of those opinions. Later, I did research on the building and neighborhood, and came to a completely different conclusion. I moved in. My earlier decision had been wrong, based on misinformation.
Sometimes when I’m talking with someone, I’ll hear them speculate out loud. When I remark, “That’s speculation,” they invariably look at me like I’m from a different world. Once my comment sinks in, sometimes they admit to speculating. More often, they go silent. I’m calling them on their words. And, based on results, they‘re not happy about it.
One day, a friend of mine was asked about an object at a party. He matter-of-factly told us about its vintage history and use. Afterwards, I said to him, “How did you know that information?” He responded, “I made it up.” He didn’t seem at all bothered by this.
I have another friend who will never say, “I don’t know.” Instead they will carefully say, “I don’t have that information at this time.” Whether this is a better solution, I don’t know.
So why do we make up stuff to explain stuff we don’t know? I’d be speculating if I tried to answer. What I do know is that whatever someone tells you, check it out. And don’t believe a word they say. Unless you’re getting your information straight from the horse’s mouth, don’t believe a word they say. Based on my experience, they’re probably speculating.