Some people can sail through life without a hitch. They can face any situation—no matter how challenging—with quick thinking, and they never seem to let anyone put anything over on them. They have an instinct for the best way to stay safe, or not get lost, or even how to get the most out of a meeting with the boss. They’re “street smart,” maybe because they’re especially good at handling themselves on city streets. Smart as they are, though, these same folks can struggle with figuring out how to do what the teacher wants in school, and sometimes their grades aren’t so great. Others are what we call “book smart”—they stumble when it comes to regular everyday decisions, but they ace anything to do with books and formally laid-out rules for how things are supposed to work. Their friends wonder how they ever make it down the street without coming to grief, though.
The Urban Dictionary says “street smarts” can be broken down into four categories: getting along with others, common sense, self-defense, and being able to detect nonsense and lies. Most of us live with a little bit of both “street” and “book” kinds of smarts, with some tending to land a little more on one side than the other. Taking this quiz will determine which of us have a little more street smart in us than others, and which are all book smarts all the way.
How should we prepare for a road trip to a new destination?
We are taking a journey to a new place. It's going to take about five hours, and we will go through several places that probably have limited cell coverage. We checked to make sure the car was in good shape already, and of course has AAA in case of a breakdown. But what happens if the breakdown happens out of range of where we can call for help? And how likely is it that we will get lost? How should we prepare?
What should we do when traffic is heavy all around us?
We are driving in morning rush hour traffic. There are cars everywhere, but everyone is moving, and it is a highway with a posted speed limit of 55mph. Traffic is moving steadily and smoothly at about 65mph. There is room in the right lane for slower traffic, but there's also a lot of construction going on. If we slow down, it will disrupt traffic all around our car, and probably make the other drivers frustrated and angry. What should we do?
How should we address the officer who pulls us over for speeding?
We have has been pulled over in a neighboring town, probably for speeding. The police officer who is walking over to the car doesn't seem to be too angry, but we were going 40mph in a 30mph zone. It is a deserted stretch of road, with a clear straightaway and no obvious hazards or traffic that Jody can see at the moment. We are keeping both hands on the steering wheel and clearly visible. How should we address the officer when he or she gets to the window?
What do we do when someone on the street asks us for money?
It’s a hot day, and the city traffic is crazy—but we find a parking space on the street (what a win!). An exasperated stranger approaches holding out a one dollar bill and asks, politely, “Hey, sorry to bother you, but do you have change for the meter? I just found a space, too!” We take a quick glance around and notice a few other folks standing just in earshot. The stranger’s eyes flick briefly in their direction. What do we do?
Where do we stand while our friend is searching her belongings for her keys?
We are is walking with a friend down a city street close to a local college. There are bands of students crowding the sidewalks, and a bunch of construction projects that block parts of the road and the sidewalks. Our friend stops suddenly and needs to make sure that she has the keys to her apartment. We stop, too, and wait while our friend goes through her backpack and all her pockets. Where do we stand while our friend is searching?
Every available two-person bench has a single person in it, with room for another person, but all the people on the bus have seats to themselves when we get on. We want to avoid disturbing the other passengers as much as possible. Where should we sit?
We get on the bus of commuters and look for a seat. The bus is about half full, and it's quiet—with almost everyone either reading something or listening to their fave tunes on headphones. Every available two-person bench has a single person in it, with room for another person, but all the people on the bus have seats to themselves when we get on. We want to avoid disturbing the other passengers as much as possible. Where should we sit?
What do we do when an apparent tourist appears to be a little sketchy in the way they are blocking the view of our bag while asking for help?
We are at a busy intersection downtown, with a messenger bag worn crosswise across the front. A lost tourist holding a map asks, “Excuse me, I’m really having trouble reading this, and I have to get to an appointment. Can you show me where on this the intersection of Broadway and First Street is?” The stranger holds the map quite close to us, covering up our bag, and there are a lot of people around. What do we do?
What do we do after alerting our boss that we'll be late to work due to a fire on the train tracks in our path.
We are running late for work because of a huge fire on the train tracks ahead—rotten luck, but unavoidable. The trains are being replaced with shuttle buses, and we have no idea how long it’ll take to get to work riding those. The job is only about a quarter of a mile away from where we are stuck, though. We first text the boss to let work know that there’s a track fire that’s holding things up for everyone. What do we do next?
What are we avoiding by obscuring an onlooker's view of the check and paperwork we are holding while in line at the bank?
We are in line at the bank, waiting to deposit a check and get a little bit of cash out, too. There’s someone in line behind us who keeps looking at the paperwork that’s in our hand. We turn slightly so that the check and deposit slip aren’t visible to the other person, and notice that the other person moves, too. Now we are on high alert, and we fold the paperwork so that no information is visible. What did we just avoid?
What do we do to give a vendor our correct email address?
When at a street fair, we are relieved to find out that a vendor selling amazing hand-tooled leather bags takes credit cards. One of these bags would be perfect for an upcoming trip! The vendor has a cool little device that fits onto a phone, and uses it to scan our card right there in plain sight. The vendor asks if we want a receipt emailed—sure! What do we do to give the vendor the right email address?
Do we wait for the next, possibly less crowded train when we have time to spare on our way to work?
The trains are running the way they usually do as we are heading to work in the morning. It’s relatively early, and we have enough time to grab coffee. Things start to get slow and very crowded about when they usually do, and the transit announcements start saying things like, “There is another train immediately behind this one; please step away from the doors and wait for the next train.” Do we wait for the next, possibly less crowded train?
How do we respond to a bothersome person in a bookstore that insists they know us when they don't?
While we are browsing at a bookstore, someone taps our shoulder. The stranger says, “Hey, this is really out of the blue, but you look so familiar. Have we met?” We look at the person—nope, that face does not ring a bell. We say, “Nope. Have a nice day.” The person persists: “I know I’ve seen you someplace! Where could that be?” We face this extremely adamant individual and curtly reply to them—with what phrase?
What’s our best bet for a conversational opener with our irritated boss?
Our boss asks to speak with us at the end of the shift, and doesn’t specify why. We know that it’s just about time for performance reviews (and raises), so we make sure to clean up really well a few minutes early and head over to the boss’ office. When we arrive, the boss looks a little distracted and doesn’t look us in the eye immediately. Then the boss sighs and looks up. What’s our best bet for a conversational opener?
What do we say to the host of a party when their event space is clearly a mess as their guests are all headed home?
We stay out late with friends at another friend’s house. The house has been set up really well for a party, and we had a great time. The night is winding down, but we don’t feel quite ready to head home. A few other friends are gathering their things. There is a fair amount of party debris around—half-full cups, paper plates with the remains of buffalo wings, random dishes of snacks. In addition to enthusiastic thanks, what do we say to the host?
How should we address our roommate who hasn't helped pay for groceries in quite a while?
We have just gone grocery shopping. and we brings the groceries in and start putting everything away. Our roommate walks in and says hi, and we remember that the roommate doesn’t seem to have gotten groceries in a while. Immediately, we realize that the roommate might not have the money for food this week, so we decide to say something. What’s the best option of the two here when our roommate hasn't helped pay for groceries in quite a while?
With crowds of people in our way, we need to get to level three of the stadium. But how?
It’s after a major sports event in our home city, and we have been celebrating with other fans. We decide to head home. Struggling through the crowd, we arrive at the parking garage after a few minutes. The crowds have died down a lot. There only seem to be a couple of small post-game groups heading to their cars, and a few people are hanging around the stairwell for no apparent reason. We have to get to level three. How?
Which color do we choose for our rental car?
We need to rent a car in a strange city. Upon arrival, we head to the rental office where there should be a reserved car waiting. After a few minutes of discussion, the previously agreed rate we booked is confirmed. The rental agent asks what color car we want, and if we want to get the optional collision coverage. After declining the collision coverage (because our credit card company includes that on rentals), we picks a color car. Which color?
Which option do we choose to ask for help in preparation for an interview?
Our hero skills are being tested today—the job interview is in ten minutes, and we have no idea where in this giant office building the interview is taking place. The name of the person is right there in our notes, and so is the name of the company. We also have a contact number for the interviewer. There’s a front desk to sign in at with some fairly stern security officers. Which option do we choose to ask for help?
What do we do when we've ordered a drink while waiting on a friend only to realize we are at the wrong location?
We have just bought a tall drink at a crowded bar while waiting for a friend. No sooner has the bartender handed over our change than we realize it’s the wrong bar—the friend was meeting us somewhere else, a short drive away. Ah, well—mistakes happen. We could down the drink fast and head over to the other bar, or head over to the other bar after maybe just one quick sip, or do something else. What should we do?
Where is the most sensible place for us to walk after leaving work on a late shift in an unknown area?
We worked late on a contract job in the financial district, and we are walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood after work. After being busy during the workday, the streets we are on now are deserted. It’s getting pretty dark out now, too. There are streetlights every ten or fifteen feet. The street has a lot of recessed doorways in the building that line the sidewalk. Very few cars are parked along the street. Where’s the most sensible place for us to walk?
How do we track down a credit card that went missing last night when out with our friends?
We wake up in the morning after a really heroic night out. We went with our friends to a series of places the night before, having a great time. We took selfies commemorating where we were all night long, and promised not to post them on social media. We do a wallet check after breakfast and realizes that a credit card must have been left behind at one of the places from the night before. How do we track it down?
What would add to our enjoyment, here?
We are taking a walk alone on the beach on a clear summer night. The moon shines on the water. The pounding of the surf makes amazing background sound, and there’s a cooling breeze. We are an excellent swimmer. We know from past experience that this beach has waist-deep water that goes out quite a ways at low tide, and then the level of the sand drops off sharply underwater. The tide level peaked about an hour ago. What would add to our enjoyment, here?
How can we address a problem with our car is everything under the hood checks out?
We drive a great car and proudly own it outright—no lease payments or loan payments! There’s something wrong with the car, though, because there’s a warning light on the dashboard that lights up every once in a while. The car appears to be fine otherwise, with no mysterious noises coming from anywhere. The levels of fluids that we can reach under the hood seem to check out. It could be important; the driver’s manual for the car says it is. How can we address the problem?
What can we do to make sure our gifts don't go to an opportunistic thief when placing our shopping orders?
It's holiday season, and we are ordering a lot of presents for others online. The ordering is all far enough in advance that nothing has to rush. Our building has an entryway that the whole building uses, no doorman. Our workplace has a receiving area that's secure, and also has a little bit of storage for personal items. There's a local problem with packages disappearing from front steps. What can we do to make sure our gifts don't go to an opportunistic thief?
What should we do when an angry mob of people leads to someone punching us in the arm?
We are in the city late at night and heading past a few places that are just closing. Lots of people are coming out onto the street, and some of them are arguing with each other. Right in our path, a few of them start yelling and swinging punches. We are really close to the action when it erupts, and the streets are relatively empty of cars. One of the punches swings wild and hits us in the arm. What should we do next?
What should we do when the cashier hands over our change while there are several customers in line behind us?
We go into a convenience store late at night and buy a couple of small items. After handing the cashier a twenty dollar bill to pay, we exchange pleasantries with the cashier and learn that there is a speed trap just down the road. There are few customers in the shop, and the ones there seem to be loitering; one pipes up that the cops do always seem to be down the road. What should we do when the cashier hands over our change?
Which method should we use when calling into a credit card company and verifying our identity?
We need to call in to a credit card company to check whether a payment was received yet. We have online access to the account, and the account also has a telephone feature. All of our identifying information can be entered by voice or keypad. The automated menu asks for the last four digits of our account number, and then the menu asks for the Social Security number of the primary cardholder. Which method should we use—voice or keypad?
Which side of the escalator do we take when tired and facing a slew of other fatigued travelers?
We are coming out of the train station at rush hour and riding the escalators to the street level. The escalator steps are two and a half people wide. The journey to the surface is long enough so that although there are stairs, it's too many for most people to climb comfortably. Some of the commuters are tired and just ride the escalator, and others are in more of a hurry and walk up the escalator. We are tired, too, so we ride on which side of the escalator?
How do we hold our place at the table and assure our drink isn't tossed while we head to the bathroom?
We are out for a drink with a couple of friends. They're seated at the bar while waiting for a table to open up (it might not!). We want to finish a half-full glass and need to leave to go to the restroom. We aren’t sure if the party will get a table while we’re gone, and the friends should definitely take the table as soon as it's available. We do something to the drink before ducking out for a moment. What do we do?
How do we keep our colleagues abreast of travel difficulties without texting while driving of making frequent stops on our way to our work convention?
We have a heroic, long car journey ahead for work, and want to make sure colleagues at the destination don't worry about traffic or mishaps—or anything else. We already know to text before setting out. Texting while driving isn't a good idea, though, and in many places it's illegal. We don’t want to make too many stops along the way, but still want to keep the folks at the destination informed. How do we do this?
What do we habitually do when approaching our car in parking lot?
We have the habits of a street smart hero, and recently noticed a habit that has been helpful. Finding a car in a parking lot at night can take a while, and sometimes it involves walking around for several minutes. Doing so with purpose is always the most sensible thing to do, but when one arrives at the car, it's best to continue appearing to any passersby to be purposeful while getting the car unlocked. What do we habitually do?
What will we know about reading assignments that are scheduled after the major graded pieces of the course?
We are working on a master's degree, and we are taking a class at the local college. The first day is always pretty standard, so it's hard to figure out what the class will really be like. We figured out a way to see what the real emphasis of the course would be by looking at the timing of assignments listed on the syllabus. We have some book smarts, here! What will we know about reading assignments that are scheduled after the major graded pieces of the course?
What do we bring to our new workplace in an attempt to foster new relationships with our co-workers?
We have a new hero job, and want to get along well with our co-workers at the new place. They all work in a place that's pretty loud and relatively far from a good place to get lunch. There's a break room at the new place, with a coffee machine and a big fridge. We figure out a way to start building a team with the co-workers in our immediate workplace by bringing something to share with them. What do we bring?
What do we use as a temporary fix for our broken rear view mirror?
The rear view mirror on our car has been accidentally damaged. The rear view mirror is important enough that even if it weren't against the rules to drive without one, it'd be inconvenient and downright dangerous (especially when parallel parking). We don't have time to get to the repair shop to have it seen to right away, but do think of a nifty trick that'll take care of it temporarily. Using stuff that's around the house, we put together a reasonable fix. What do we use?
What should we do when approached by strangers that make it known an attack is imminent?
We are out walking in the city, and somehow manage to get lost. While finding the way back to a known area, the worst happens—a menacing group of two or three strangers starts to hassle us. They're all bigger and stronger than we are. Very quickly we begin to fear a physical attack is imminent. The street is not deserted, so there are passersby; there are also businesses around that are open, and residences with windows open. What should we do?